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Study Smarter on Smartphones & Tablets

January 8th, 2013 by Brady

I love the tingling energy in the air during January class starts. No. I’m not talking about the static build up from that new wool sweater.

It is the silly stories we share from winter break, the new plans we make with friends, and the inevitable comparison of gifts received (or that we purchased for ourselves).

If those gifts included an iPad, iPhone, Android device, Kindle Fire or Nook tablet… CourseSmart’s reader team has another present for you.

CourseSmart Mobile Reader on Google's Nexus 7 tablet

CourseSmart Mobile Reader on Google's Nexus 7 tablet

In December, we quietly improved  CourseSmart’s browser based reader. When accessed on these devices, CourseSmart’s reader will adapt to maximize screen real estate and support common multi-touch gestures like pinch to zoom, swipe to previous or next page, and press to select text to highlight or copy.

Yes. The highlights from your laptop or desktop study sessions will be visible on your smartphone or tablet’s browser.  And, yes. New highlights you make on these mobile devices will be available when you sign in on your laptop or desktop.

Details were announced today at the Consumer Electronic Show. More information is available online at

Why did we make the browser based reading experience better for mobile devices? Why not focus on the apps available for download from the iTunes App Store or Google Play market?

True. We recently exceeded a half million downloads for our Android, iPhone and iPad applications. However, lots of students and instructors prefer the convenience of CourseSmart’s browser based reading experience.

Smartphones and tablets represented 10.5% of all traffic to CourseSmart’s website in Fall 2012 (up from 5.9% in Fall 2011). That’s over 3.5 million mobile visits — a 5.5x annual increase.

We also realized that there are more than 700 different smartphone and tablet screen types that visit our site each year. Based on announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show, I’m sure we’ll see many more in 2013.

For the computer science majors reading this post, CourseSmart’s mobile reading experience is based on our traditional laptop and desktop code line. We use responsive design techniques to detect operating system as well as screen size, orientation and pixel density. Elastic layouts  are implemented with Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) media queries to maximize screen real estate. And, our specially tuned JavaScript engine does the heavy lifting to support multi-touch gestures.

For the rest of us, the improvements are simply magical.

Stay tuned for more news about our mobile reader.  Throughout 2013, the reader team will apply lessons learned from this project to CourseSmart’s Android and iOS applications. In the interim, let us know what you think of our browser based reader on your favorite mobile device.

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CourseSmart at the Annual Consumer Electronics Show: The Continuing Evolution of Digital Education

January 8th, 2013 by CourseSmart

CES 2013 International Conference

The New Year ushers in a season of resolutions and gym memberships, but also the annual Consumer Electronics Show, hosted at the Las Vegas Convention Center each January.

CourseSmart will once again attend CES, with presentations slotted for the main conference as well as the one-day HigherEdTECH Summit. We will be discussing new updates to the CourseSmart mobile experience, as well as our beta pilot of CourseSmart Analytics, which provides faculty and institutions with insight into student usage and engagement with digital course materials.

If you are planning to attend the show, be sure to stop by either of these events:

Tuesday, January 8:
Who: Sean Brady, Director, Product Management, CourseSmart
What: CourseSmart’s Universal Reading System - optimizing the mobile user experience
When: 1:45-2:00pm
Where: Venetian Ballroom, Booth 71121

Thursday, January 10:
Who: Jim Ambach, Senior Vice President, Product Management, CourseSmart
What: The New Math: Is Analytics Adding Up? – a panel discussion about the ability to use educational data in order to support student learning objectives
When: 3:00-4:00pm
Where: LVCC, North Hall N256

For those of you not lucky enough to make the pilgrimage to Techie Mecca, keep your eyes peeled for a couple of exciting announcements from CourseSmart over the coming days.

Happy New Year!

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Alert! Scheduled Site Maintenance

November 19th, 2012 by CourseSmart

CourseSmart will undergo scheduled site maintenance on November 22, 12am-5am PT. During this time, and your digital rentals will not be available online.

To read eTextbooks offline during the maintenance, please remember to check them out to your offline Bookshelf before November 22.

Please see step by step instructions for reading offline:

CourseSmart at EDCAUSE, the Premier Gathering of Higher Education IT Professionals

November 6th, 2012 by CourseSmart


Somewhere in the range of 5,000 people are crowding into downtown Denver this week for the Annual EDUCAUSE conference, and CourseSmart is not going to miss out on the fun. The event promises to be better than ever, with hundreds of presentations on topics ranging from IT leadership to analytics to digital content.

The exhibit hall, which is being built up around me as I sit here writing, will soon transform into a spectacular city of vendors. The rumor is that there will be nearly 300 companies looking to partner with institutions to help realize their visions for the future.

You would be hard-pressed to throw a stick and not have it hit something CourseSmart-related at this convention, but in case you would like help finding us, here are a few options:

•Stop by our booth: #1465

•Come to our panel presentation:
Wednesday, November 7, 10:30-11:20am
Mile High Ballroom 2B/3B
Getting Smart About Educational Analytics
Moderated by Ellen Wagner, WICHE/WCET

•Join us for refreshments: CourseSmart is sponsoring a refreshment break
Thursday, November 8, 10-10:30am.
Stop by and chat at any of the Grab N’ Go areas in the Exhibit Hall

•Look up! CourseSmart has partnered with IMS Global Learning Consortium, and Convention Center signage tells you where to learn more.

For those of you in Denver, we look forward to seeing you soon! For those of you who are unable to make it, you can always contact us at EDUCAUSE, here we come!

CourseSmart at WCET Annual Conference: Using Technology to Enhance Higher Education Teaching and Learning

October 31st, 2012 by CourseSmart


And we thought it would calm down after Back-to-School season…

CourseSmart is firing on all cylinders as we head into the last few months of the year (can it really be November already??) We have two conferences and a handful of big announcements coming up, and we could not be more excited about everything going on around here!

Up next: the WCET Annual Conference, in San Antonio, Texas. For those of you that don’t know about WCET (WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies), it is an organization that champions “the adoption of effective practices and policies, advancing excellence in technology-enhanced teaching and learning in higher education”. CourseSmart is privileged to have been a partner of WCET for a number of years, and we can’t wait to see what is in store for this year’s conference!

CourseSmart will participate in quite a few events at the conference, which runs from October 31 – November 3. If you are in town, be sure to stop by and see us!

WCET Tabletop Expo: Thursday, November 1, 10:15-10:45am and 2:45-3:15pm
If you want more information about CourseSmart, please feel free to stop by our table.

“Content for Free Range Learners” Panel Session: Thursday, November 1, 10:45-Noon
Shannon Meadows, CourseSmart SVP of Business Development, will be on a panel discussing digital learning content in all its forms and formats: commercial, open, and faculty/student published content.

“Infrastructure for Digital Integration” Session: Friday, November 2, 9:30-10:45am
Chris Manriquez, CSU Fullerton’s associate vice president and information technology and academic technology officer, will discuss his institution’s digital textbook pilot program.

Buzz Breakfast Session - “Cracking the Code on Digital Course Materials”: Saturday, November 3, 8-9am
Come and chat with us over breakfast! We will be tackling big questions about how to increase student adoption and engagement with digital course materials.

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Etextbooks: A New Chapter in Studying

October 16th, 2012 by CourseSmart

Imagine not having to carry what feels like the weight of the world on your shoulders—a backpack full of heavy books. Instead, you can carry just one device and have all your textbooks accessible with the tap of your finger.

Etextbooks, a convenient, digital version of your heavy textbooks, are an eco-friendly way to consume your class materials without wasting paper or hauling extra pounds to class. In addition to going green, you can organize all your etextbooks onto one digital shelf and never have to scramble before class again.
CourseSmart, one of the most popular apps for etextbooks, is available on iOS and Android devices, Kindle Fire, and any web-enabled device. You may not be able to stay focused and read full chapters on a screen as small as your iPhone, but viewing your etextbook on your phone would come in handy while riding the bus or last-minute cramming before a test.

There are other benefits to studying sans paper and pen; here are a few tips to help you become proficient with CourseSmart etextbooks:

Easy-to-navigate Layout

At the top left of the screen, you will find a tab for the outline, table of contents, and a search option. To the right, you will find print options and a jump-to-page option. All the features are displayed at the top of the page and are all help you to navigate your etextbook with ease (see below).


Simple Search Function

Instead of flipping through chapters to find a certain topic, you can search within a page, chapter, or entire book—making studying and writing papers easier with this faster and more convenient topic locator. The search box shows you how you can narrow down your results and highlights the terms in just one click.


Highlighting and Note Taking

You can also highlight sections and make notes to yourself without permanently inking up your textbook. Notes appear to the right of the text to click on whenever needed; however, you may find that writing terms down on an old school notebook may be better for memorization. Electronic notes are a great feature, but deciding which note-taking strategy is best for you depends on your writing and typing speed, and how you prefer to review notes. To make electronic notes, simply select a section of the page and a box appears for you to highlight, copy, or write a note for that section.


Convenience, cost, and environmentally-savvy factors considered, extextbooks are on the rise. “We had over 35 courses with ebooks in the Summer quarter and we had an 80% adoption rate of the ebooks,” said Stella Coker, SUPPORT+ Resource Center Manager. “We will have additional courses in the Fall, and I am looking forward to seeing if the adoption percentage holds, increases, or even declines.” As a Rasmussen College student, the etextbooks are available on the student portal and the Personal Support Center is open to any student who needs etextbook assistance.

About the Author: Abby Hermes is a proofreader on the Creative Team in the Marketing Department at Rasmussen College. She uses her meticulous eye to spot inaccuracies in web, email, and print content. Abby also provides useful and entertaining blog articles to help students throughout the lifecycle of their college career.

The Emergence of the “Digital Dorm”

September 17th, 2012 by CourseSmart

Today’s college students reach for their mobile devices to solve almost all of their would-be problems. What’s the score? ESPN. Where should we eat tonight? Yelp. Get a picture of that! Instagram. There is no way that fact is true…Wikipedia.

Increasingly, students turn to mobile applications in order save time and money, especially on things like textbooks. According to a recent Wakefield study, an astounding 92% of students believe that technology like e-readers, textbooks, mobile devices and tablets can help save their time with studying and learning.

The “digital dorm” is transforming the way students study, and we love being a part of it!

The Digital Dorm

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These Stores Are Digital and So Can You: Digital Best Practices (with a nod and apologies to Stephen Colbert)

August 1st, 2012 by CourseSmart

Lynne Williams, CourseSmart’s Director of Business Development, has compiled her thoughts on how college bookstores can succeed in the digital revolution sweeping higher education:


Why are some stores so successful in selling digital textbooks and others not so much? What successful stores have done exemplifies implementation of the best digital practices, all of which any store can do.

1. The guiding force at all successful stores is the ability to offer students as many options as possible—new, used, rental, and digital. That includes adopting the digital version, if available, for every title, unless an instructor specifically requested that a digital title not be made available.
2. Management philosophy and staff buy-in are key elements in a successful digital program. The desire to offer all options is generally part of a store’s overall plan, and as such, staff recognizes the value of offering digital texts.
3. Digital titles are available both in the store and on the store’s e-commerce site.
4. The stores invest in marketing that they offer digital textbooks. On each store’s website, there is information about digital books, either as part of an FAQ or on a separate page, and digital titles are listed along with the other options for a student’s course needs. In the store, cards, often designed beyond a generic template or in bright colors, are on the shelf next to print options.

Successful stores tell students about the digital option often and in many ways: Facebook posts, banners, posters, emails, countertop signs, online school newspaper advertising, orientation packages, and new student presentations. One very successful store provides specific information to Orientation Leaders so they can go to a shelf card and speak intelligently about digital and the savings a student can recognize. To help students better understand digital, stores provided a technology resource. Stores have had an IT Bar in the store during rush; another store had a table at the school’s Tech Test Drive, an event held to showcase the use of technology in the classroom, and at a Student Services Fair with laptops so students could experiment. The best idea is an eTextbook demo station available in the store to show students what a digital book looks like and what they can do with them.

These stores also make sure that the entire institution, especially faculty, knows the store sells digital textbooks. They provide digital text information at department meetings, new faculty orientation, and coordinators events, in communications with the faculty, and on adoption forms.

Finally, good staff training is essential to the marketing plan. The textbook floor staff, especially student workers who understand the need for low-cost options and who have been trained in the digital textbook process, can be particularly effective in explaining digital textbooks and their advantages to their peers. One store provides “cheat sheets” for the staff and at another, student workers are thoroughly trained in small groups.

5. These stores find they are successful in “off the beaten path” programs, especially in situations where the students never come to the bookstore—or even to campus. One store’s top-selling digital title is for an online English course, and the store plans to work closely with the school’s New Media Extended Learning program to make sure they promote eTextbooks for the fall. Another has found success in business classes at a remote campus. There is great potential in programs such as these or in programs that enroll non-traditional students. Successful stores sell eTextbooks across the curriculum but business students seem to purchase the most.

As I was gathering this information, I was struck by the commonality of practices among these the stores which are successful in selling digital textbooks. What they do is interesting and effective, and no one practice seems out of reach for any store. Implementing these best practices will help you maximize the potential of eTextbook sales in your stores.

Can It Be? Already?

July 26th, 2012 by CourseSmart

End of Summer

I walked into Target yesterday and was literally bombarded by signs announcing the end of summer. Pencils and backpacks had moved in to the real estate previously occupied by bathing suits, which now hung in sad disarray along a back wall marked “Clearance.”

I am no longer a student, which means that, at least theoretically, August should feel about the same as July: my daily routine will not change, the weather will only continue to get better, and there are no tests looming on the horizon. However, I stood in Target yesterday and mourned. Summer cannot be over, gosh darn it! I have not eaten enough hot dogs! I have not swum in enough pools! I have not found nearly enough excuses to wear my neon blue pants!

We at CourseSmart have been ramping up for the “Back-to-School” season for a while now, but Target has made the announcement official: our care-free sunshine days are numbered. This devastating blow is softened by only one thing: the arrival of pumpkin-flavored everything. Enjoy the rest of summer, readers, and get ready to hit the books!

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CourseSmart is at Desire2Learn FUSION!

July 17th, 2012 by CourseSmart

D2L Fusion

I don’t think I have passed out this many stickers since a road trip I took two years ago with three kindergarteners. Desire2Learn is hosting its 9th Annual D2L FUSION Conference, and has set up an elaborate contest involving stickers, prizes, and pins. And lest you think the higher education community is too “mature” for such games, let me assure you that this group is so eager to gain points for their teams that they are literally knocking over tables to get stickers from me. I am frightened.

In all seriousness, though, the show so far has been spectacular. We couldn’t ask for a better setting than San Diego, and the hosts have been nothing but gracious. The keynote speech on Monday was given by Sal Khan, founder of the infamous Khan Academy. The caliber of speakers and sessions set up for the next few days is impressive to say the least.

CourseSmart, not surprisingly, is taking part in the conference. We have a booth in the exhibit hall (complete with not one, not two, but THREE different types of candy), and will be presenting alongside Ray Bertani, Director for the Center of Distributed Education at Chattanooga State Community College. If you happen to read this post before 3pm on July 17, rush to Room L3-308 for what promises to be an engaging and interactive presentation!

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