Wiley Aims For Intelligent Digital Content
The digital revolution has arguably transformed higher education more dramatically than any other publishing sector. The interactive features that may seem like a distraction in a novel perform crucial functions in education products, enhancing the learning experience with instructional video or in-ebook math problems. Adaptive learning and interconnected content are also becoming more important, says Sesha Bolisetty, vice president of content management at Wiley Global Education.
Joining John Wiley & Sons in July of 2012 in the midst of its digital transformation, Bolisetty was tasked with streamlining production in the global education division. This required improving workflows, strengthening digital platforms, and increasing overall digital output.
Bolisetty’s work is also part of a growing trend in the education sector to provide services, or as Bolisetty puts it, “content-enabled products.” Just two months after he joined Wiley, the company acquired Deltak, an online learning platform that hosts courses for hundreds of institutions. The acquisition will power Wiley’s efforts to provide e-learning solutions for universities and enhance its own online education platform WileyPlus.
Book Business spoke with Bolisetty to learn how Wiley Global Education has developed under his leadership and to discuss the future of the education publishing sector.
What has changed in the education division since you were hired two years ago?
I would say in the last two years we made tremendous strides in strengthening our digital portfolio, our platforms, and also the scale of our digital revenue. Now more than half of our revenue comes from digital products and services. That's a big change that is taking place.
A significant part of our effort goes into building enhanced ebooks, rich media, and the adaptive content that we produce. In other words, it's not just about digital content, it is also about making the content more adaptive to the customer needs and enriching content with various functionalities. Those are some of the big things that are going on.
What are some of the major challenges you're trying to address in global education?
I have a college-bound child so both as a parent and as a member of Wiley Global Education the emphasis is all on helping students achieve their aspirations to become successful in their careers. The biggest challenge is to continue to innovate to come up with powerful new platforms and technologies to deliver our content and continue to provide relevant services to help the students and professors.
We are significantly investing in ramping up our adaptive content delivery. Adaptive content is about customizing the experiences of our content for a particular use case to improve student outcomes. As the student takes the course assessment, the content, the types of questions, and even some of the references are adapted to that particular student's needs.
At the Digital Book World Conference in January you mentioned that 50% of Wiley Global Education's ebooks were enhanced. What's the strategy behind this?
Let me first define what we mean by enhanced ebooks. Enhanced ebooks are the ebooks that we use within WileyPlus, our e-learning platform. WileyPlus has a very powerful enhanced ebook embedded in it. We spend a lot of time and resources in optimizing this ebook experience. There are some enhanced ebooks that we also make available on third party channels but a large part of our enhanced ebooks are going into WileyPlus and are a part of a course for a particular title. For example Principles of Anatomy and Physiology is one of our big titles, and there is a very strong enhanced ebook that is available as part of its course material.
Is Wiley moving toward more online course offerings and a service-oriented business model?
The answer is yes in both cases. Aside from enhanced ebooks, Wiley Global Education provides a number of custom solutions to various institutions. Content-enabled services are a growing area of focus for us. And I feel this is a general trend and many education publishers are moving in this direction. In my mind, this is an area of growth for the entire publishing industry as well.
How has workflow been improved to create these services?
From a content management point of view, we have implemented a number of workflows that optimize content for multi-channel delivery. It's no longer about one particular channel. We deal with a number of channels: WileyPlus, a number of third party platforms, and Wiley Custom Select [a database of content used by professors to build custom course materials]. And print is still an important channel for us.
With all of these channels, we've had to strengthen our workflows and the processes to get the content ready for multi-channel distribution.
Much of our current workflows are digital-first-focused where we are simultaneously working on digital components as we are working on finalizing the core content in a textbook, which includes text, art, and photos. While the authors are reviewing the proofs and finalizing the core content we are simultaneously working on animations, interactive simulations, adaptive content—a number of different threads that are growing out of the core content.
That's what's going on right now. We're trying to work in structured toolsets and also in the file formats where you can go from one format to the other easily without much rework.
How are you formatting content so that it easily transitions from one channel to another?
Wiley has it's own XML markup. We call it WileyML, and it is the basis for a lot of the ebooks that we produce but we're also starting to do more and more ebooks using EPUB 3 and HTML5 modules. We are moving towards the open standards in terms of ebooks but we're also, in the cases that we need to, taking an open standard ebook and adding additional functionality to optimize the experience in a particular channel.
Where is the global education audience growing?
Within Global Education we provide a growing number of services now. We acquired a company called Deltak Learning that plays into the online program management market, or hosting online courses—so that is a significantly growing market for Wiley. In terms of regions, obviously, the U.S. is a big market, but we're seeing growth in Europe, Asia, and in emerging markets.
Is mobile particularly important in emerging markets?
Absolutely. I think mobile is becoming very important everywhere but especially in emerging markets where the penetration of mobile access is increasing quite a bit.
Mobile technologies can help emerging markets in a number of ways. In a place like India, cell phone use has increased rapidly and is helping consumers access valuable information in rural areas where Wi-Fi access can be very limited. In general, mobile devices can provide quick access to content and related material for students.
So having mobile-friendly features is very critical for a publisher like us, and the industry in general, because there are a number of places where users might go straight to mobile to access content. As publishers work hard in improving the mobile friendly features of content (especially in education publishing) students and teachers can benefit a lot from it.
What do you think is the future of the digital education content?
In my mind, digital publishing is about great content and great technology. You need to have, of course, great content and you have to have robust content delivery mechanisms that take into account the new trends like adaptive and interactive. All those are important because the new generation students—like I said, my daughter—are growing up with a lot of exposure to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. We need to incorporate a lot of the great things that these platforms have introduced into the traditional content models that the publishers have worked with.
The question is not so much about print or digital, the question is about how can we create great content with all these features that students have come to expect, and then it's all about making it available to the end user in whatever channel they prefer. If they like the print format at the end of the day, we give them a print copy. If they want a tablet-optimized version, we can do that, but to do that you have to provide content in the most universal format. That is publishers' main focus. They have to really think about how to keep the content in the most universal format so that they can quickly get into the format that the customer wants.