The villain cheating students and faculty

There is a pervasive villain that strikes at the very heart of higher education. Its wound is painless yet powerful; victims don’t even know their academic life has been crippled until it’s too late.

There has been much gnashing of teeth and angst about the rapid rise in cost of textbooks and course materials. Some statistics show an 80 percent increase in prices over a 10-year period, with students spending an average of $1,200 each year on hardcopy textbooks and supplies.

To help curb costs, a market of used and rental textbooks has emerged that offers titles at more reasonable prices. However, the used market has actually made the problem worse, forcing prices of new books to rise even higher because publishers can now only generate revenue on the initial sale of the first edition of each title.…Read More

eTextbooks are as polarizing as ever in higher ed

The eTextbook revolution has been coming for quite some time, but if recent national survey results are any indication, acceptance of nontraditional textbooks isn’t even close to critical mass.

etextbooks-students-collegeThe survey, conducted by and released in July, showed that four in 10 students said they had been assigned an eBook for a college course, meaning non-print books have yet to crack the 50 percent threshold in higher education.

A highlight of the national survey is a look at how college students feel about eTextbooks: 44 percent of respondents said they were “somewhat or very happy” with the user experience, while 39 percent said they were “somewhat or very unhappy” with eBooks as a class resource.

Jeff Cohen, CEO of, said that if eBooks were consistently more affordable than traditional books, national surveys would likely look much different.…Read More

Students want more class assignments available on mobile devices

Eighty-eight percent of students say they have used a mobile device to study for a test at the last minute.

“Who completed the reading?”

It’s a question some instructors likely ask every week. If students are being honest, only 10 percent of the class would raise their hands, according to a new survey. But a majority of students believe that response would be very different if the material was available on mobile devices.

The survey, conducted by Wakefield Research and digital course materials company CourseSmart, asked 500 American college students about their dependence on devices, their opinions on eTextbooks and their views toward the rising price of a college education.…Read More

Students, faculty want more support for eTextbooks

47 percent of undergraduates wish their teachers used more eTextbooks.

Faculty and students seem to agree that digital course materials will figure heavily in the future of higher education, but instructors are struggling to find the time and support to actually adopt eTextbooks in the classroom, according to a study released by the Educause Center for Analysis and Research.

The report examined 23 colleges and universities that collaborated with Educause, Internet2, McGraw Hill, and the eTextbook provider Courseload in a pilot program that provided eTextbooks to more than 5,000 students and faculty in nearly 300 courses.

“While IT clearly has a role to play to support, deliver and help design new methods of providing digital course materials, it must collaborate and co-lead with many other groups,” the authors of the report recommended. “Each institution has a different culture and a different set of strategic priorities that will influence its e-materials strategy, projects and services, but all we need to work across multiple platforms.”…Read More

New initiative targets accessible open resources

A new partnership expands OER opportunities for higher education.

Postsecondary educators report growing challenges to implementing open educational resources (OERs), the most problematic being time loss spent combing multiple sources for supplemental educational material.

In response these mounting concerns, Pearson has teamed with Silicon Valley nonprofit Gooru, a search engine for learning materials, to create Project Blue Sky, a cloud-based content service that makes OERs more accessible. The partnership combines resources from both companies.

“Project Blue Sky is a service that enables academics to search for and curate OER material in a single place and combine it with Pearson content to create new or augmented works,” said Don Kilburn, CEO of Pearson. “It’s a marriage between OER and commercially-available content.”…Read More

Viewpoint: Thinking outside the book

eTexts can help students purchase material they need, saving money.

eTextbooks already have triggered what is shaping up to be a seismic upheaval in the way we think about academic course material. Digital materials offer highly mobile, on-demand access to academic texts in formats that allow students to store hundreds of books on a single device.

The physical aspects of this change are, on their own, monumental: Just reducing the volume of paper required to publish a textbook in digital form means that eTexts have the potential to save millions of dollars in shipping, distribution, and—eventually—waste.

Certainly, there are front-end costs in building the devices that allow readers to view eTextbooks, and while these are not negligible (and do indeed produce waste), publishers are gravitating toward a distribution model that eliminates the single-use device, opting instead to make eTextbooks accessible on laptops, tablets, and even smart phones.…Read More

Colleges taking a team approach to eTextbooks

Six in 10 students said in a recent survey that they forgo buying required books because textbooks are too pricey.

Reining in exorbitant textbook costs is no longer a campus-by-campus venture: A unified approach, powered by EDUCAUSE and the Internet2 consortium’s NET+ cloud-based collaborative purchasing program, could make low-cost electronic textbooks available now, ed-tech leaders hope.

Colleges experimenting with digital textbooks can take months—sometimes years—to negotiate with publishers before their school’s modest eBook program is introduced to students now paying upwards of $1,100 a year for books.

This fall, campus technology leaders will closely track the results of an expansive eTextbook pilot program ranging across 28 campuses, creating what many in higher education believe could be a model for quickly bringing low-cost textbook options to students who, in some cases, have stopped buying required texts because they cannot afford the books.…Read More

eBook pilot could save college students a ‘huge amount of money’

The eTextbook pilot program will cost $20,000.

The University of Wisconsin (UW) Madison campus and five other major universities announced plans this week to try buying electronic textbooks in bulk, an experiment that officials say could help rein in burdensome textbook costs and bring eTextbooks into the mainstream.

The university will try it on a small scale at first, in five courses involving about 600 students at the start of the school’s spring semester.

At UW-Madison, students will spend an average of about $1,140 on books and supplies this year, up from $680 in 2001-02.…Read More

Dean: Training should precede eBook use

More than 500 Trine University students will use eTextbooks this spring.

Trine University students can highlight text, take digital notes, or chat about their latest readings from their eTextbooks starting this spring semester. But first, one school official said, they need a lesson or two.

David Wood, dean of Trine’s School of Professional Studies, has helped oversee the college’s transition to eTextbooks when the spring semester starts Jan. 10.

All 530 Professional Studies students and 75 faculty members will use CafeScribe electronic textbooks, a part of Follet Higher Education Group, which first introduced its digital textbook format in 2007.…Read More