etextbook

A major shakeup for eTextbooks


A new acquisition marks the second time in a year that the eTextbook industry experiences a major shift

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An eLearning content company on March 3 acquired popular digital textbook company CourseSmart, marking the second time in a year that the eTextbook industry has seen a marked shakeup.

The online textbook platform Vital Source acquired CourseSmart seven years after the maker of digital textbooks was launched by education’s five major publishing companies: Macmillan Higher Education, Cengage Learning, Pearson, John Wiley & Sons, and McGraw-Hill Education.

The shift in the eTextbook market follows 2013’s Intel purchase of the educational software company KNO, which had gained traction in higher education technology circles in 2012.

CourseSmart, with users worldwide, provided eTextbook access to the vast majority of core higher education books and a vast catalog of digital content that could be used in the classroom or lecture hall.

(Next page: The new eTextbook benefits you can expect)

Will Ethridge, Chairman of CourseSmart, said in a statement that the company “will be able to further accelerate the adoption of digital learning materials to these audiences, while providing more effective distribution and customer relationships for authors and publishers as well” after the Vital Source acquisition.

Officials from Vital Source and CourseSmart talked up the potential for bolstering competency-based learning with expanded digital resources — a common theme among educators and technologists who have long pushed for a departure from the traditional credit hour-based model of education.

Expanding the availability of digital course material could do just that, said Robert Mendenhall, president of Western Governors University (WGU), a school that has been at the forefront of the competency-based movement.

An expansion of the digital resources provided by CourseSmart has prompted a shift toward analytics in higher education.

With analytics installed directly into a digital textbook, for example, that analysis can happen seamlessly while students are doing their own reading. That could change the way educators  monitor student learning.

How a student interacts with a digital textbook may be more effective at predicting student outcomes than prior academic achievement, a metric long thought to be the strongest predictor of success, a recent study showed.

“Seeing how a student’s engaging with a book, how much of the book they’re consuming, how they’re using the tools in the book, is an indication of how successful they’ll be,” Cindy Clarke, CourseSmart’s vice president of marketing, recently told Education Dive.

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