The future of textbooks looks like this

Also, only 44 percent said they would be more likely to use digital textbooks and course materials if they offered analytics and reports on class performance; only 35 percent said that digital course materials provide a more effective learning experience than print; and only 27 percent said that digital course materials have a beneficial impact on student learning compared to print.

And though NACS “expects a growing shift towards digital in the next 3-to-5 years,” thanks to data collected from its latest Student Watch survey from Spring 2015 that showed the use of digital course materials slowly but steadily climbing in use by about 3 percent during the 2014-15 academic year, ICBA and CCS say the shift to digital will be a very slow process.

Asked when they thought the majority of their course materials would be primarily digital, almost 25 percent of faculty surveyed indicated “never,” while 17 percent said by Fall 2020, and 9 percent by Fall 2022. Yet, in contrast, 16 percent of faculty surveyed said that a majority of their current course materials were digital as of Fall 2015, and 34 percent anticipated primarily digital course materials by Fall 2018.

“While the transition from print to digital course materials may be inevitable,” stated Fred Weber, CEO of ICBA, “these new data make two things clear. First is that the pace of change is much slower than anticipated by publishers, administrators, digital advocates, and campus IT professionals. And second, most faculty are not convinced that digital products have a positive impact on student learning outcomes.”

Another problem is the issue of access, explained Casey Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project and the conductor of the ICBA survey. “The survey data reveal a core conundrum regarding cost and access to digital course materials, and especially OER materials. Faculty overwhelmingly report that a major benefit of going digital is the lower cost of course materials. Yet, many faculty, especially in community colleges, also report that their students don’t own the tech platforms required to access digital content. Consequently, many of the students who might benefit most from lower-cost digital and OER course materials are not able to do so.

Mentioning OER, the ICBA and CCS report also reveals that 39 percent of faculty surveyed said they’d never heard of OER, while 36 percent indicated that they knew little about OER but had not used or reviewed OER materials. Only 11 percent were currently using OER in their classes, and only 4 percent were using OER in their own classes and also making their own course materials available. [Read: “3 legitimate reasons why faculty aren’t using OER.”]

Faculty surveyed said that quality and cost were again the two top factors in their consideration of OER adoption; and perhaps because most had little exposure to OER, faculty said they expect the movement to primarily OER materials in their courses to be slower than digital.

(Next page: Crafting an implementation plan; where to go for guidance)

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