Bright Red Publishing is a multi-award winning independent publishing company which develops and produces high quality Study Guides for the new National 4, National 5, CfE Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications. They collaborated with Edinburgh Napier University to create a unique on-line Digital Zone (www.brightredbooks.net) to further support students and teachers during a time of immense educational change in Scotland.
The Business Challenge
The company, wanting to produce the very best resources for Scottish students, was looking to support their publishing plans with on-line support across a number of subjects. Although the company had the expertise to create and tailor the very best possible content, they did not have the experience to develop the digital strategy required to fully capitalise on the work they had done.
Bright Red Publishing approached Business Gateway, who referred them on to Interface. After working with Bright Red to develop their initial brief, Interface put out an enquiry, searching through all of Scotland’s universities to find the right expertise. Reviewing the resulting proposals from the universities, Bright Red felt that Edinburgh Napier University and, in particular, Professor Bill Buchanan, had the extensive expertise and support to get their digital project off the ground. The collaboration was supported by a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher, providing £5,000 to cover the cost of Professor Buchanan’s time.
According to John MacPherson, Director of Bright Red Publishing
“Working with Interface has been a brilliant experience for Bright Red. We have been able to access some amazing expertise and really step up our digital plans. The creation of the Digital Zone has proved a game changer for our business and paves the way to a lot of exciting new developments.”
The original aim of the project was to create a prototype interactive testing system. The tests were to be developed in one subject area initially (Physics), to support the new qualifications being introduced in Scottish schools in 2013.
The project, supported by the Innovation Voucher, achieved this and delivered much more besides including:
- On-line study support environment which the company can easily update (www.brightredbooks.net).
- On-line tests with drag-and-drop games.
- On-line videos, links and activities for related material.
- Calculators for worked examples.
Building on the success of their original collaboration, Bright Red Publishing and Edinburgh Napier University applied for, and received a Follow-On Innovation Voucher for £20k, which the company matched in cash.
The key challenge for the follow-on project was to scale-up the integration of fun elements and challenging on-line materials from within the area of Physics to a wider range of subject areas for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher grade books, creating innovative web-based materials to reinforce textbook learning.
The ground breaking Digital Zone currently offers a broad range of on-line supporting resources to students approaching their National 5 and CfE Higher qualifications. The content, links, videos and games integrate completely with Bright Red’s best-selling Study Guides and the pioneering on-line tests allow students to check their progress and identify problem areas. This is an absolute first for S4 and S5 students approaching these all new qualifications.
A key part of the innovation was the development of a website which aims to reinforce teaching-focused learning, but also provide new ways of supporting student learning. The infrastructure created scales across all the books, from Maths and Computing Science to English and French, in a consistent way. The site integrates key features for each subject, such as the range of calculators for Maths and language translators for French.
This project proved to be very successful. In terms of technical innovation, the approach offered by the digital test materials offered a distinct competitive advantage to the company in the market space in which it operates. The web-based materials offer a flexible, fully user-friendly and engaging product for both students and teachers. No other provider in this market offers in depth interactive tests designed specifically for the Scottish curriculum, which are both fun and educational with full explanations associated to each answer. The digital materials also provide adaptable support and guidance for both students and teachers dealing with brand new qualifications, during a period of great change and upheaval in the Scottish education system.
The Digital Zone (www.brightredbooks.net/subjects) has now sold over one million books, has more than 100,000 registered users and has had over two and a half million tests taken. Feedback from both students and teachers has been excellent.
John MacPherson, Director of Bright Red Publishing said:
“Collaborating with Professor Buchanan on this project has been incredibly exciting. To enhance our printed content through the Digital Zone in the way we have has had a great effect on our business. It has also opened our eyes to many more ideas and opportunities than we might not have considered before.”
The benefits to Edinburgh Napier University were the further developments of its excellent portfolio of research and industrial expertise in building the novel software architectures related to testing for educational purposes.
According to Professor Bill Buchanan:
“The impact has been massive, especially as it properly supports our children in new methods of learning, while still keeping a focus on printed material, and in integrating teacher-led approaches. Everything we learned from the project has now fed back into creating enhanced teaching environments for undergraduate and postgraduate modules. Basically it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which Bright Red and the University took full advantage of. To think that we help to support our children’s education, every minute of the day, is an impact that few could dream of.
“We are so proud to have worked with such an innovative and forward looking company, who significantly contributed to Scottish society, and who will have an increasing role. Seldom have I seen such amazing vision from a company, and for one who have delivered so perfectly from every single angle. For me, I’ve learnt so much, while it has also been an opportunity to put in-place academic developments which fully support a child’s education, in an on-line environment.
"For an academic team to have the opportunity to help in the foundation education for our children is a unique opportunity, which can only bring benefits to all in our country. Many new projects have spun-off from the original project, including with us leading on an EU project which creates an engaging educational environment within Cyber Security.”
By fully developing this new business strand, the company has increased revenue and been able to offer employment opportunities. In 2014 they recruited a Sales and Marketing Consultant to implement their new digital marketing strategy and also a Publishing Assistant to work closely with Edinburgh Napier on the on-line materials. Initial expectation in the Follow On Voucher application was for sales of Bright Red Guides to increase from £190k in 2012/13, to £300k in 2013/14 and £500k in 2014/15. The driving presence and popularity of the Digital Zone meant that in 2013/14, revenue leapt straight to £500k and is well on target to better that figure in 2014/15.
In a broader sense, the development of the Digital Zone represents the start of an integrated print and digital offering from Bright Red that will continue for many years to come. The company have committed to an ongoing consultancy contract with Edinburgh Napier University and hopes to work with Professor Buchanan on other future projects. In 2017 Bright Red Publishing announced further development to the Digital Zone to incorporate GOAL (Game Of Active Learning) which is being designed in collaboration with Professor Buchanan funded through a Scottish Enterprise SMART award.
The project has allowed Bright Red Publishing, a wholly independent Scottish company, to compete in their market on an equal footing with rivals based outside Scotland. Once they have developed this product further, it will be easily adapted for use overseas, particularly in markets such as India, China and Africa where the Scottish Qualifications Authority is a growing presence. This will require a greater staff resource and lead to an increase in export revenue.
“There can be little doubt that the opportunities arising from this collaboration are many. We feel that our work with Professor Buchanan at Edinburgh Napier has really propelled Bright Red into a different space, and has great potential to launch our brand and product well beyond the Scottish border.”
For more information on Bright Red please visit SMEs Rule! - A Case Study in Enterprise and Innovation - a blog by Prof Bill Buchanan, Edinburgh Napier University.
Please note that Interface administers the Innovation Voucher Scheme on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council. All funding applications are reviewed on a case by case basis by the Scottish Funding Council, guidelines can be found here.