In collaboration with Kortext, we recently carried out an extensive report on the usage of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) in Indonesian universities, and found that they are used extensively to facilitate blended learning and to help achieve learning outcomes. However, despite this, the reading rate in Indonesia is lower than that of other countries. Overt and Kortext have teamed up on an Indonesia Ebook initiative to promote the use of Ebooks via these VLEs. This blog will summarise the results of our report, and why we have launched our Indonesia Ebook campaign. 

The Indonesian Initiative 

Reading habits in Indonesia are lower than in almost every other OECD nation, despite the literacy rate being relatively high. In fact, in 2018, a study by UNESCO revealed that only 1 in 1000 children in Indonesia actually enjoy reading. The Program for International Student Assessment (or PISA) ranked the average level of reading ability in Indonesia as significantly lower than average among all of the OECD countries. Academic performance, and proficiency in science and mathematics, ranked at a similarly low level.  

2018 PISA Trends in performance in reading, mathematics and science

Indonesia Initiative 2018 PISA Trends in performance in reading, mathematics and science

This low academic proficiency doesn’t seem to be a result of lack of efforts or investment either—the country has over 600 universities. Reading problems have been found to result in less positive learning outcomes, and this seems to be the driving force behind Indonesia’s comparatively poor academic performance.  

The reason for lower reading habits in Indonesia is likely due to a number of cultural, social, and political factors. The country is dominated by the oral tradition rather than sharing information via written text, and reading out of choice (as opposed to having been instructed to for schoolwork) is considered an unusual activity. Reading books also faces competition from various forms of digital media, like social media, streaming, and online gaming. 

2018 PISA trends in school segregation, and gap in material and staff shortage between advantaged and disadvantaged schools

Indonesia initiative, 2018 PISA trends in school segregation, and gap in material and staff shortage between advantaged and disadvantaged schools

Lack of opportunity is another prominent factor. Experts have cited the poor quality and less engaging content of government-issued textbooks, the limited number of libraries, and the lack of access to affordable foreign books.  

However, studies show that people in Indonesia, on average, have the highest amount of ‘screen time’ in the world. While technology can reduce the reading of books, people in Indonesia still consume plenty of written media in the form of social media posts and online articles. In Indonesia, Ebook platforms could thrive. 

This combination of high digital literacy and low rates of reading (at least, when it comes to books) sparked the idea for an Indonesia Ebook initiative aimed at improving reading habits using digital technology, much of it already in place and used widely in Indonesia. Our report found that every (public and private) university in Indonesia uses at least one VLE, with Moodle being the most popular. 

Ebooks have many advantages over physical books—they can be distributed cheaply and easily, they don’t take up physical space, and they can often be translated automatically using software. Being accessible and compatible with a range of devices that are already widely used in Indonesia, Ebooks seemed the ideal solution to the country’s reading problem. In fact, there is even existing proof that in Indonesia, Ebook use improved reading habits and reading comprehension among students!  

However, one main obstacle to accessing Ebooks is their cost. While our report found significant interest among university students in using digital texts to aid in the study process, many of these texts are expensive. For students in Indonesia, Ebook access is often unaffordable currently. An Indonesia Ebook platform could really increase the accessibility of useful texts. When considering how to get free Ebooks into educational institutions, Kortext seemed the ideal partner.   

Why did Kortext and Overt decide to team up on the Indonesia Ebook Initiative?  

Kortext provides a subscription-based reading platform that grants students at participating institutions access to over 10,000 digital textbooks on a range of topics. The Kortext platform is compatible with popular VLEs such as Moodle, Blackboard, and Canvas. Overt Software has years of experience and knowledge of hosting, maintaining, and optimising VLEs for educational institutions all over the world.  

Overt and Kortext decided to team up on an Indonesia Ebook initiative to increase students’ access to high-quality Ebooks, thereby improving reading habits and educational performance in the country. We believe that the Indonesia Ebook initiative will help both students and learning providers, by significantly increasing the accessibility of effective reading resources in a straightforward way.  

When it comes to facilitating easy access to thousands of free Ebooks, Indonesia seemed a prime choice. Kortext Ebooks integrate seamlessly with VLEs such as Moodle, which is very popular in Indonesia. Our report indicated that providing Open Access Ebooks via VLEs would be a popular move among students surveyed. 

Students’ perspectives on free Ebooks Indonesia on VLE 

Our report (which you can view in full at books.overtsoftware.com ) revealed that Indonesian students were initially mostly unfamiliar with the concept of Open Access Ebooks available via VLEs. However, the need for Ebooks appears to be high, and students generally support the idea of an Open Access Ebooks feature like that proposed in our Indonesia Ebook initiative. Access to the books and journals needed for their studies is currently limited, with libraries being largely ineffective and rarely used.  

The idea of a digital reading platform like Kortext, especially when integrated seamlessly into the institution’s VLE, was well received. Students were asked whether or not they would find Open Access Ebooks integrated into their VLE useful, and if so, why. Responses included the following: 

“I need free Ebooks, in particular international Ebooks, to arrange my thesis as I am a final year engineering student and it is currently difficult to find suitable Ebooks for my major.” 

“It would be very useful because students wouldn’t need to go to the on-site library in the university and find physical books. They could easily get reliable information at any time and anywhere from reliable sources.” 

“Yes, there would be no more need to use illegal resources to search for journals or books.” 

“In my opinion, it would be really useful, especially for my major, because you need specific information from library books for practice reports. Students living far from the university have very limited access to library books currently. I would be interested in the free Ebooks feature, as at the moment I have to look for downloads and I worry that they have viruses. If you can access many books for free, why not?” 

“Yes, I think it is important to have Open Access Ebooks in Moodle since we could use them more often for classes. It would help students and lecturers attach book files to assignments so we can download and read them easily. This would save time in opening book files during classes.”  

“Yes, in my major we need a lot of references from Ebooks. Trying to get books from the library is hard and the books there are outdated. With Open Access Ebooks it should be easier to update the data bank to accommodate new research.” 

“It would be useful, because it would make it easier to find Ebooks and other learning content.” 

Free Kortext eBooks in your VLE for all! 

Kortext Digital Library in Computer and Phone

Overt and Kortext believe in providing reading for everyone, wherever they are in the world. Access to high-quality books, and the beneficial learning outcomes associated with this, should not be limited to students based on geographical location. We believe that students in Indonesia are entitled to the same level of reading opportunities that students in other countries have, and we developed the Indonesia Ebook initiative with this core principle. 

Providing free, high-quality Ebooks on VLEs could increase both interest in, and access to, reading in Indonesia. You can find more detailed information on the research carried out for our Indonesia Ebook initiative in our report at books.overtsoftware.com


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