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Archive for May, 2012

Reading Offline with CourseSmart: Major Improvements

May 23rd, 2012 by CourseSmart

Earlier this year, CourseSmart launched a new online Reader with significant improvements in three primary areas: Overall User Experience, Tools and Viewing Options.

Beginning this week, you will find the same enhancements in the offline reader that you’ve already enjoyed reading online. This means that even if you don’t have an internet connection, you can still access the chapters you want to read. Great news, right?

Here are the enhancements we’ve made to our Offline Reader:
• Overall User Experience
o Faster checkout
o Faster downloading times
o Streamlined navigation
o Updated look and feel
• Tools
o Notes Management: View all notes, highlights and annotations at one time through the My Notes tab; apply text formatting (font and size) to notes; assign notes to highlighted text; reveal content of notes within the context of a page
o Highlighting: Activate highlighting function with a single click, add notes to highlighted text, and easy navigation to highlighted pages
o Bookmarking: Navigate to bookmark location with a single click, create bookmarks for specific pages
o Copy and Paste: Basic copy and paste without the need for an interstitial dialog box
o Search: Navigate between search results and book contents, view page content alongside the search results through the Search-In-Book function
• Viewing Options
o Multi-level Zoom: Scale images and graphics to any size
o Full Page Spread: A side-by-side page view to view pages in “2-up” mode
o Continuous Scrolling: View pages in continuous “scrolling” mode
o Thumbnail View: View small thumbnail images of many pages, and click on a thumbnail to navigate to that page

Here’s a step-by-step video on how to read offline:

We hope you enjoy these improvements! As you know, one of CourseSmart’s core values is to provide the best possible experience to our consumers. That being said, we will continue to make improvements to our reading experiences, both online and offline.

CourseSmart at WCET Leadership Summit

May 10th, 2012 by CourseSmart

WCET Leadership Summit“Education is our civil religion; if we fail at that, we fail at everything.” Powerful words on the second day of the WCET Leadership Summit, spoken by Kaye Howe of the National Science Digital Library, who happens to be sitting next to me right now, unaware of my plans to immortalize her words in the blogosphere.

With the threat of “failing at everything” looming over our heads, the time has come to reconsider how we think about education. Some argue that strict standards and pre-set curricula are key, but I take a different standpoint: throw them all out. Standards limit innovation. Today’s rapidly changing technological landscape gives students and educators tools that make traditional textbooks seem woefully inadequate. I would urge legislators to trust in the abilities of our teachers, not to rein them in with a laundry list of outcomes that take up the vast majority of the year.

The institutions represented at the WCET Leadership Summit have embraced a remarkable variety of educational models. They understand that the educational world as we know it is on the cusp of a revolution, and are determined not to be left behind, and in many cases are leading the charge toward this new learning ecosystem.

CourseSmart is sponsoring this summit, a gathering of 90 remarkably high-caliber members of the higher education community. I have been furiously taking notes in each of the sessions, drinking in all of the conversations about digital learning content creation, publication, maintenance and adoption. WCET has a wonderful job of hosting an incredibly smart, opinionated, even feisty group of people, and I look forward to seeing what real solutions come out of it.

- Nani Jansen, CourseSmart Events Coordinator

The Digital Backpack

May 2nd, 2012 by CourseSmart

London Book Fair

Last week London was abuzz as the publishing world descended on Earl’s Court for the annual London Book Fair. Over the course of the three day event, publishers worked to tout their books, secure the next big deal and debate “hot topics” like digital, which has generated a lot of interest and highlighted the need for publishers to really think about the web, apps, devices and social media.

Amongst the chatter of the book fair, I read a piece by a journalist who said that whilst publishers have embraced simple text-based eBooks, few are ready to back anything more complex as it requires significant investment. In my opinion, that view isn’t entirely correct. We’re in a perfect storm of innovation, and I believe the publishing industry has responded magnificently. Just look at the partnership between Cengage Learning, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Wiley who set up CourseSmart; the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and digital course materials. On Monday, at the book fair, these publishers were on hand when CourseSmart’s expansion into the UK and Europe was announced with its online eCommerce platform. Not really a sign of publishers not wanting to back anything more complex, is it?

eTexbooks and the rise of the digital backpack

Not long ago pencils, notebooks and print textbooks reigned supreme as classroom necessities, and are still a recent memory for most of us with Gen X and Y still suffering from the memories of lugging around heavy, textbook filled backpacks. Today, the higher education landscape and student experience is dramatically different as eTextbooks gain momentum and students acquire themselves a digital backpack. Thanks to significant innovation in technology, digital course materials, and the proliferation of mobile devices, today’s digital natives are in a position to benefit from an enhanced, streamlined and superior approach to learning.

Students are not only embracing digital devices - including eReaders, smartphones and laptop computers - they are completely dependent on them and eTextbooks open up a whole new world for those students. Student respondents indicated that they used an average of three different digital devices on a daily basis, and 38% of the students surveyed said that they could not go more than 10 minutes without checking one (or more) of their digital devices. The proliferation of smartphones has led students to expect instant access to everything and anything, including their course materials.

Due to their flexibility and anytime, anywhere access, eTextbooks have become an attractive option for many students that frequently have to fit studying in between their other responsibilities such as work and internships. Three-quarters (73%) of students indicated they bring their textbooks with them “on the go” and nearly half (48%) of all students who own a tech device frequently read eTextbooks. With university fees set to rise, and the hassle of reselling your second hand books for next to nothing, the cost of eTextbooks is another factor attracting students, allowing them to save up to 40% on textbook costs by renting them online.

Thanks to the rise of eTextbooks, higher education students can now truly have a digital backpack. Additionally, by utilising eResource materials that provide interactive, assessment-based course materials, students can take quizzes and self-assessments in the palm of their hands. These new technologies and advanced learning resources allow students to study more efficiently and effectively, resulting in an enhanced learning experience that was not possible a decade ago.

Looking forward, this is an incredibly exciting time for both the higher education and publishing sectors. So, come September as students prepare for their new academic year don’t be surprised if you see students walking a little taller with their digital backpack in tow.

Fionnuala Duggan, Managing Director for International at CourseSmart

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