Vendors link e-textbook content with LMS software

CaféScribe eBooks are available online and on more than 850 college campuses
CaféScribe eBooks are available online and used on more than 850 college campuses.

As digital textbooks become more common on higher-ed campuses, providers are making it easy for professors to share textbook notes and resources with students through their class learning management system (LMS) software. The latest provider to do so is Follett Higher Education Group, which announced May 19 that a new standards-based system would integrate its eBook material with popular sites such as Moodle, Sakai, and Blackboard.

Educators who use textbooks supplied by Follett’s CaféScribe, which also brings students together through social networking to form online study groups, can take detailed notes in the web-based format, pointing out the most important lessons to students and fellow faculty.

Until recently, those notes couldn’t be shared on a college course’s LMS, where students go to see class assignments, chat with peers and faculty members, and watch class videos online.

Now, college students will be able to see CaféScribe notes posted by their professors on their LMS web site, and they’ll be able to go directly to the notes via hyperlink, “automatically placing the notes in the context of the eBook and vice versa,” said Bryce Johnson, director of eTextbook solutions for Follett, which is based in Illinois and serves 1,600 campus bookstores nationwide. “Students will not experience this as two software environments, but instead as one learning experience.”

Johnson added: “Our whole desire here is to bring [CaféScribe eBooks] into the online environment. We want to bridge that gap between LMS and [electronic textbooks].”

Flat World Knowledge, a New York-based publisher of open electronic textbooks, also allows educators to link digital books to their LMS sites, pinpointing a certain chapter or lesson if needed, said Eric Frank, Flat World’s president. And educators who use CourseSmart eBooks have “the ability to access CourseSmart content from within an institution’s various campus systems,” Heather Shelstad, the company’s director of marketing, said in a statement.

Bringing the two online platforms together, Follett officials said, required the company to adopt the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard created by IMS Global Learning Consortium, a nonprofit group leading the push for standards-based school technology.

The LTI standard, according to IMS’s web site, allows for “mash-ups of applications within the learning system or portal,” reduction in support costs for colleges and universities, and protection from “poorly written proprietary tool integrations” that can affect LMS sites.

Frank of Flat World Knowledge said the company does not use the LTI standard, “not to say that we won’t sometime in the future,” he added. Flat World’s eBooks can be “embedded as Flash objects” in the most commonly used LMS software, such as Blackboard and Moodle, he said. Flat World books reportedly are used by professors at some 900 colleges and universities.

Rob Abel, CEO of IMS Global Learning Consortium, said connecting LMS sites to digital textbooks would save students the extra step of jumping back and forth between CaféScribe eBooks and their Moodle, Sakai, or Blackboard LMS.

“Traditional bound books are to classrooms as eTextbooks are to learning management systems,” Abel said. “Higher-education institutions need to integrate these resources to create a seamless educational experience for students.”

Students who use the CafeScribe eBooks aren’t limited to contact with their professors and fellow students. Any student from any campus in the world can share content and study notes with any other student if they’re using the same web-based textbook, according to an April 21 announcement from Follett Higher Education Group.

CaféScribe eBooks are used on more than 850 college campuses, according to the company’s web site.


Follett Higher Education Group


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