eTextbooks in Trinidad and Tobago
What is an etextbook? An etextbook is a textbook in digital format. You will use a laptop or tablet or other device to download and read your etextbook. There are several advantages of etextbooks. These include lower cost, environmentally friendly, easier to carry many books, easy to search, text to audio, easy to update and can be interactive.
When are we going to see etextbooks in Trinidad and Tobago? I contacted TTUTA and asked, "Do you think that etextbooks should be used in Trinidad and Tobago? And why?" and have not received a response as yet. I contacted the Ministry of Education's Textbook Unit and asked, "Does the ministry have plans to introduce etextbooks in the education system?" and have not received a response as yet. I did a search of the MOE website and came across this recent RFI (due date Jan 15 2021) which states
The Ministry of Education (MOE) is seeking to introduce e-textbooks into the education system and recognises the significant role of Publishers/Authors in providing educational resources for students. In this regard, the MOE requests information on the availability of e-textbooks that are aligned to the primary and secondary schools’ curricula, which cater for all students, inclusive of those with special educational needs.Following the RFI, the MOE will issue a request for submissions for evaluation and recommendation. A listing of specific subject areas and relevant levels will also be provided.
What are some of the challenges? Why are we so late to this? I think that publishers are afraid that change may affect their profitability. Once digital the book may be easy to copy and use without paying. I remember doing an interview with Datalore Inc about their CSERS (Caribbean Shared Educational Resources Service) project when Barbados was looking to introduce etextbooks back in 2016. One of the questions was, "What is in place to ensure that persons don't copy the books without paying for them?" And the answer was, "Our platform is a digital rights managed platform (encrypted) which prevents students from copying the files."
Then there are a chunk of students that don't have devices. I am thinking that etextbooks can be launched in parallel and on a phased basis until all students are equiped. I am looking forward to progress being made and etextbooks becoming the norm.