COVID Impacts on Primary Educational Publishing

Child using iPad

As part of her bachelor’s degree in Media and Communications at the University of Sydney, editor Grace Reid researched the Impact of Digital Technologies and COVID-19 on Educational Publishers.

The APA helped facilitate this project, so we caught up with Grace to find out more about the research and what drew her to the topic, as well as her findings. 

The appeal of this research subject was inspired by her work in the sector, with Grace saying:

‘I was interested in this topic as I work at an educational publishing start-up company and have observed, even in my short time there, the changing educational ecosystem as a result of the digitisation of the classroom and the COVID-19 pandemic. I was interested in how this changing ecosystem impacted primary educational publishers and their operational inputs and outputs.’

Research consisted of semi-structured interviews with industry professionals, along with a website audit looking at educational publishing resources and how they’re delivered. The interviews in particular explored how digitisation has affected the role of publishers and the formats of educational resources produced, offering insights into the future of the industry and the impacts of COVID-19.

Of her research Grace noted that:

‘The main finding was that primary educational publishers play an indispensable role within Australia’s dynamic educational ecosystem. The research revealed a mission-driven industry where publishers create products in response to the demands of educators. These products are underpinned by cutting-edge learning design, pedagogy and technology.’
Educational publishing communication circuit, created by Grace in order to explain the modern Australian primary educational ecosystem 

Educational publishing communication circuit, created by Grace in order to explain the modern Australian primary educational ecosystem

Meeting these needs, and navigating the ever changing state and national curriculum can be a tricky balance, but Grace found that the reaction of publishers to COVID-19 had strengthened how they’re seen by educators:

‘COVID-19 reminded the industry of the need to be flexible, dynamic and focused on problem-solving. Publishers’ quick responses to remote learning challenges, with many deciding to offer their products for free, highlighted the focus of publishers who endeavour to support educators no matter the circumstances. The pandemic reinforced the value of educational publishers in the minds of educators.’

Grace found that while COVID-19 has accelerated existing trends such as the move to digital products, this has pros and cons for both publishers and educators alike. 

While digital educational resources can support educators in enriching the learning experience, there are concerns that the physical and mental wellbeing of students is being negatively impacted by the prolonged exposure to digital products. Educators had also shown reluctance to embrace technology, with many struggling to integrate digital formats in their teaching, but they do see benefits from greater personalisation and differentiation of educational resources, along with automation of marking.

For publishers, this reluctance presents a challenge best addressed through training and support for teachers. But the ability of publishers to enable educators to transfer effectively to remote learning environments during the pandemic, along with wider acceptance of digital products through this period, has obvious benefits.

Overall, Grace was excited about the prospects for such an innovative industry, and noted publishers expected continued demand for print materials alongside digital resources, concluding that: 

'The future of primary educational publishing in Australia is promising, with many of the interviewees innovating with the goal of supporting educators and saving them time. This is where the value of the primary educational publisher really lies, in being an educator’s supporter. 

Publishers are set to continue to adapt and solve problems, innovate within the digital space, and develop the capabilities of personalised products without neglecting the print formats that are integral to primary education. They will continue to be adaptable problem solvers who respond to issues faced by educators, creating new formats and products with the ultimate mission to support their users.'

The full thesis is available to download here, and Grace encourages anyone with questions or feedback to get in touch with her via [email protected].