One year later: how the pandemic shifted digital learning and influenced e-book and audiobook usage in schools


At Ark Elvin Academy, digital books close a reading resources gap

Prior to the pandemic, Ark Elvin Academy – a secondary and sixth form school in London, England, that serves a predominantly working class, English-as-an- additional-language cohort – did not have a digital collection. In fact, its print library was a fairly recent addition, established in 2017 when it brought in Librarian Jo Jenner. However, at the outset of the pandemic in 2020, it became clear that Ark Elvin would need more than just a physical school library to keep meeting students’ needs remotely. To continue delivering reading

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on schools and student learning. With the shift to remote or hybrid learning beginning in March 2020, digital book usage has skyrocketed. As a result, schools have invested in edtech tools more than ever. As one of the leading providers of digital books to schools, OverDrive Education sought to understand the digital shift and how schools are using e-books and digital audiobooks in the classroom, libraries and at home. OverDrive Education examined data from its network of 46,000 K-12 school partners worldwide, comparing 1st March 2020 to 28th February 2021 to the previous year. This report summarises these findings and also includes case studies from a variety of districts.

Data analysis and findings

Significant increase in schools using e-books and audiobooks As of April 2021, 48,700 schools partner with OverDrive Education for their digital reading services, a 108 % increase year over year. This means the number of students with access to the company’s Sora student reading app and their individual school’s or district’s digital collection also significantly increased (to 23 million, +93 %).

Students read more during the pandemic Also noteworthy is students’ increase in reading as evidenced by secure aggregated data from Sora app usage. This includes the growth in digital books opened (+228 %), average hours student spent reading (+25 %), average hours spent reading per book (+21 %) and average hours spent per session (+88 %). During this pandemic timeframe, digital books borrowed

by or assigned to students from their school’s digital collection grew by 139 %. Ebook usage (measured as “checkouts”) increased by 155 % while audiobook checkouts rose by 66 %.

Students use public libraries through school app to expand reading choices In addition to checkouts from the school’s collection, students checked out 3 million additional e-books and audiobooks from their local public library through the Sora app (+516 %). More than ever, school library partnerships – known as Public Library CONNECT – enabled students to use their school credentials to borrow e-books and audiobooks from both their school and local public library through Sora.

Digital book usage in curriculum surges Before the pandemic, leveraging digital books as part of the curriculum was still gaining traction. Now, use of digital books in support of curriculum has grown exponentially, contributing to overall growth in student reading, as publishers expand digital rights to align with schools’ needs and educators realise the convenience of digital access. The most prominent digital book access model in the past year was the On-Demand Class Set rental, which enables a title to be deployed to many students at a time, with a typical 90-day access period.

To learn more about OverDrive Education and Sora, visit About OverDrive Education – a division of OverDrive

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resources to students, Ark Elvin partnered with OverDrive Education to add e-books and audiobooks to its learning toolbox. It started with Secondary E-books NOW, a shared digital collection for schools in the UK that includes over 2,000 high-quality titles curated to the secondary level, with a focus on UK authors and titles. “The shared collection is up

to date. It’s very clearly well managed,” Jenner said. She also pointed to Sora as a huge benefit, citing the app’s device versatility, ease of use, personalisation features and learning tools like notes and highlights and in-app definitions. Jenner is pleased with the

results of Ark Elvin’s first full year with Secondary E-books NOW and Sora, noting that 82 % of pupils and staff have begun using the app since the 2020 rollout, which was conducted mainly online. And now, looking to a post-pandemic future, Jenner is excited about the new learning opportunities afforded by having a dual print and digital collection.

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