Oxford University Press Launches Its ‘Little Oxford’ App—With Data

In News by Porter Anderson

The ‘Little Oxford’ app for children aged 3–5 has been introduced with survey results of parents on digital learning.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Irina Kononova

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Commissioned Study Reports Parental Interest
Designed for children aged 3 to 5, the Little Oxford app from Oxford University Press has been released this month, a project the press developed in collaboration with edtech developer named Inception XR.

What well may be more interesting to our internationalist trade publishing industry readership is some interesting input from some research conducted for the release of the new app. If the responses of 2,000 parents and caretakers of 3- to 5-year-olds in the UK has been collected and analyzed accurately, then barriers may be coming down further than some have expected to the use of electronic media with young kids.

Top-line findings being reported here:

  • Almost nine in 10 parents told researchers for the product-supporting study made that they think educational apps can benefit their child’s learning (89 percent), digital skills (89 percent) and numerical skills (89 percent)
  • Four in five parents told researchers that have concerns around online safety relative to digital educational activity, but 66 percent of respondents said they believe that children whose parents spend time using apps with them know how to keep themselves safer online later on in life

As for the Little Oxford app, according to its promotional copy, it “will help your little one get ready for school and settle into education with activities, books and games that come to life in your own surroundings. It offers a fun, playful, and interactive set of learning [exercises] for your child to explore. Each pathway in the app is linked to an area of learning in the [UK’s] Early Years Curriculum.” Since our interest here is less with the app and more with its accompanying survey results—and because we’re a B2B news medium rather than a consumer-facing outlet—we’ll just point you to a helpful FAQ here about it, part of an extensive online body of sales material on the app itself.

More From the Little Oxford Commissioned Study

Image: From Oxford University Press’ site for its ‘Little Oxford‘ app

For the international industry of young readers’ book publishing, it’s definitely interesting to see signs of potential evolution in parental acceptance of digitally delivered educational assists for youngsters.

And while those percentages are being reported with the customary overstatement that has become the patois of modern polling services—it’s never actually what “parents believe” but what they said they believe when asked—there are at least encouraging signs in the responses made to this one study and its 2,000 parents of one three-year age group of children in a single book market, the UK, that there may be some thawing when it comes to the question of using digital teaching aids, edtech.

Long creating a soggy spot in children’s books markets, the going wisdom has been that parents weren’t keen to hand their kids “more screen time,” let alone find costly devices in bathtubs and at the bottoms of summertime kiddie pools.

But when Opinium Market Research was commissioned to do its study for the Oxford product launch─the survey work was done in May 2023─little of that resistance was reported to the news media, if it indeed showed up in responses.

According to the media messaging from Oxford about its new app—and the survey it’s riding in on—a respectably sized sample of parents in the UK with kids 3, 4, and 5 years of age seem to be feeling better about using digital means to prepare those tykes for school, which is the obvious intent of the Little Oxford app.

Here are a few more points of interest offered by Oxford University Press from the study. Keep in mind that the Little Oxford app is used on a smartphone or a tablet; that’s why the study looked at input from parents at times about devices.

  • Nearly nine in 10 (88 percent) of parents and caregivers who were responsive to the study’s researchers said that they agree that educational apps support their child’s learning of the national curriculum
  • Some 59 percent of parents surveyed said they’d feel reassured to know that many other parents and carers understate the amount of time their children spend on smartphones
  • A reported 62 percent of parents asked said they believe they manage their child’s screen time well
  • Two in 3 parents said they set a time limit for children on smartphones and/or tablets
  • The average time spent on screens, according to the input provided to researchers by participating parents, is nearly one hour (71 minutes) per day for 3- to 5-year-olds, with children’s screentime increasing with age
  • As indicated above, 82 percent of parents surveyed said that they have some concerns around safety when it comes to their children using smartphones and tablets, and yet two-thirds of the responding sample said that they believe that children whose parents spend time using apps with them know how to keep themselves safer online later on in life.
  • Parents surveyed said they’re most likely to let their children use smartphones and/or tablets when traveling on long trips (59 percent); when feeling tired (44 percent); at a restaurant (35 percent); or in a waiting room (31 percent)

In a comment prepared for the release of the app, Helen Freeman, the director of early childhood and home education at Oxford University Press, is quoted, saying, “Digital literacy has become a vital part of classroom education in the UK, and it is clear from this report that parents of pre-schoolers are highly aware of the many benefits of digital tools for young children.

“However,” she says, “we also know how vital it is for parents to have access to safe and informative screen time. …”

Freeman goes on to say, “The in-app activities are linked to our free parent platform Oxford Owl, which has lots of off-line resources available for parents and children to enjoy together, ensuring that parents can vary their child’s screen use as they feel fit. We believe that Little Oxford will give parents the confidence to support screen-based learning at home, in a safe, fun, and collaborative way.”

For those interested in the cost to consumers for the new app, Oxford University Press says that the app is a free download with a charge of £15 (US$19) for three months or £30 (US$38) for the year. There are no in-app purchase options so that young learners can’t surprise their parents with unexpected invoices.

More on educational publishing is here, more on children’s books and reading is here, more on Oxford University Press is here, and more on academic publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.