Monday, December 13, 2010

CT > Embracing Electronic Textbooks

Campus Technology  / 09-30-09 /  Linda L. Briggs


Don St. Dennis, an associate professor of communications at St. Mary's University of Minnesota who teaches a variety of MBA classes around communications themes--as well as an undergraduate business writing class this semester--has been offering his graduate students an e-textbook option for several years. [snip]

The digital texts are offered through CourseSmart, an electronic textbook company founded in 2007 that has a joint venture with five publishers and distributes e-books for a dozen more. (The company was founded by higher education textbook publishers Pearson, Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, John Wiley & Sons Inc., and the Bedford, Freeman, Worth Publishing Group.) It now offers more than 7,000 titles across many disciplines. According to the company, it now offers digital versions of over a third of the most popular college textbook titles.


The benefits of digital texts, St. Dennis said, include both savings for students and the added convenience for him. [snip].

While opinions vary on just how solid a value a digital textbook is for the average student, St. Dennis said he e-mails his students a price comparison of paper and electronic textbooks each semester when he offers the e-textbook option, and finds a general savings of at least 40 percent, ... .


Of course, students cannot resell digital texts at the end of the course, as can be done with many paper textbooks, assuming they are still current. In fact, in a model that is common with electronic texts, the fee paid to CourseSmart for a digital book doesn't actually purchase the e-book--instead, it functions more as a subscription, ... .

Has there been a downside for St. Dennis? He said initially he found the concept of e-books interesting but was unwilling to give up the physical presence of books. [snip]


He said he suspects his students have been going through that same evolution in the several years he's been offering CourseSmart texts. "Students were interested initially and liked the lower cost, but they still liked referring to textbooks." Now, the electronic text option is gradually becoming more popular.

The CourseSmart interface also includes features such as a hyperlinked table of contents, search, copy and paste, a student notes section, and the ability to highlight text in yellow or add "sticky notes." [snip]

At least some of the e-textbooks from CourseSmart also include multimedia features, St. Dennis said, such as short, YouTube-style videos. The videos are useful, he said, to help break up the long, four-hour evening classes that are common for his courses.



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