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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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Evaluation Made Easy for Instructors

April 4th, 2012 by CourseSmart

Compare Side-By-Side eTextbooks

Compare Side-By-Side eTextbooks

Attention Instructors: Did you know that CourseSmart has a new Table of Contents side-by-side comparison feature? Long over are the days when you had to set two or more print textbooks side-by-side and compare TOC’s. CourseSmart makes comparison easy, by allowing you to pull up one etextbook from “Publisher A” alongside another etextbook from “Publisher B.” You can see in one view which order of information you prefer for your teaching methods, thus allowing you to make an informed etextbook decision for your class.
CourseSmart has over 20,000 digital etextbooks in our arsenal, and over 90% of the core textbooks used in Higher Education today. That means the liklihood that we have the eTextbook you’re looking for is quite high.
To use this feature, search for a textbook you’re interested in viewing. Then, click the “compare” button. Next, use the search button to locate a title to compare. The description for both books and the Table of Contents for both books are now side-by-side for you to see.
Making eTextbook adoption decisions has never been easier. To see this new feature in action, here’s a short YouTube video:

Video on Side-By-Side TOC Comparison


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CourseSmart at CAMEX

March 5th, 2012 by CourseSmart

CAMEX CourseSmart Booth

CAMEX CourseSmart Booth

The National Association of College Stores is hosting its annual Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) in Salt Lake City this week, and CourseSmart is exhibiting alongside nearly 700 vendors seeking to get their wares into college bookstores across the country. Our booth (#6553 – come see us!) makes us the proud owners of 0.071% of the sprawling trade show floor, and we intend to make the most of our modest square footage.

Both on the floor and in the conference sessions, there have been fascinating conversations about the future of the campus bookstore. Bookstore-related jargon is circulating, and no buzz-word intrigues me more than “click-and-mortar,” which I heard today. Is there anything more satisfying than a mash-up word that is witty AND relevant? I can’t think of a better way to describe the next generation of bookstores, who exist in a market that now encompasses a confusing jumble of print and digital options. It’s no secret that the days of simple print texts are a thing of the past, and consumers are demanding choice.

This year, stores seem genuinely interested in getting more involved in the world of digital content, and we are so excited to partner with them in offering students options!

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The Campus Library: Resource Center or Study Space?

May 11th, 2011 by CourseSmart

Last week the University of Denver revealed to faculty that after a proposed $32 million dollar transformation, the campus library will no longer house 80% of the library’s holdings in favor of creating more space for students to gather and study. The last minute decision to permanently store the majority of the library’s little-used books and journals has spurred a serious debate on the university campus with social science professors who are up in arms over the removal of much needed materials, especially for students taking humanities courses.

The University of Denver is not alone in making this radical change in the function of campus library space. In 2009, Syracuse University announced that it would be removing seldom-used, printed materials from its Carnegie Library after the completion of a major renovation of the space. While the University of Colorado faculty has been less vocal than that of Syracuse University, the major complaint remains the same: is the student discovery process hampered by an inability to reference “printed” materials?

With the wealth of journals and resource materials found in digital format, in addition to the accessibility of humanities-related materials on the internet, the move away from a campus library laden with actual books seems like a foreseeable change. But again, it is the process of student discovery that has most professors concerned. One professor from the University of Denver, in reference to her personal library experiences, noted stumbling upon several additional books when conducting library research as a common occurrence. While this experience might not be shared by the average college student, it’s not to say this type of discovery doesn’t occur with students searching the internet when researching a variety of topics. To analyze the number and frequency of links clicked by a student conducting research in digital journals would suggest that the inevitable discovery of new resources and exposure to new knowledge is not limited to experiences with printed materials in a campus library. Though it’s unclear whether there is data support this, it might be entirely possible that, with the immediacy of the internet, research conducted using digital materials exposes students to a greater quantity and variety of resources it would take hours upon hours to discover in a library setting.

It seems likely the debate about the inevitable discovery of knowledge linked to research conducted with print-versus-digital resource materials will continue as the renovation at University of Denver is completed and more universities seek to transform library space from a facility for intensive research to a facility for studying and social learning. It is certain that most universities will be faced with a similar decision of adapting the campus library to an area that meets the needs of a tech-savvy student who conducts research on the internet or to maintain the status quo at the request of faculty who prefer student research to be done using printed resources. With the availability of digital journals and resources expanding, campus populations booming, and many universities finding space to be at a premium, it appears as though the future of the campus library may not include books.

Are you a student or faculty member? How would you feel about your campus library removing printed books and journals in favor of creating an “academic commons” like the University of Denver?

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