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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 www.coursesmart.com/go/mobile.

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

October 31st, 2012 by CourseSmart

wcet-connect

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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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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Reach and Adoption of Digital Course Materials in the Evolving Higher Education Space

July 9th, 2012 by CourseSmart

The Future of Education
Recently an article (oped) on CNN.com highlighted an education experiment conducted by Sebastian Thrun of Google fame. The experiment was essentially an attempt to provide very high quality higher education at a very low cost to a wide range of participating students. The course was a grad level artificial intelligence class taught at Stanford University that was delivered over the web for free and reached 160,000 ’students’ - including the 200 Stanford attendees. This model now used by Sebastian Thrun’s website Udacity.com, by way of online delivery, while not new (see Khan academy, Coursera, the MITx project, etc.) does underscore the ability to scale higher education to a much wider audience to include students that are unable to attend the institution for a myriad of reasons – such as the cost of enrollment.

Cost considerations are not limited to those that are traditionally required to enroll in a course but also to those that are required to ensure the student is armed with the appropriate materials to help them succeed in their courses – and here is where digital course materials provide value. While open educational resources are available and other online content that may be free is at a students disposal, they don’t always provide the level of quality pedagogy that is found in course content that is developed and put through the rigorous scholarly review and editorial process found in published higher education materials.

The move to digital course materials is also driven by the same attention to cost to the student where the digital versions are much lower cost and can scale to be available to an almost limitless number of users. Marrying the new and creative methods for delivering quality higher education to a much wider pool of students with digital course materials that can greatly (and arguably better) assist the learner in grasping content and promote better learning outcomes is something that definitely has a place in the evolving higher education space and CourseSmart is excited about taking a leadership role in this evolution.

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Higher Education Faculty Members: Skeptical Innovators

July 1st, 2012 by CourseSmart

Faculty and Online Education, 2012

Faculty don’t dig online learning. So concludes the recently-published Inside Higher Ed article examining faculty attitudes about the quality of online learning. According to the Babson Survey Research Group, which conducted the surveys summarized in the article, a meager 6% of faculty members consider online learning outcomes to be superior to those achieved through face-to-face instruction.

Given the fact that my career depends almost entirely on faculty adoption of digital course materials, this is a troublesome statistic indeed. I suppose I should throw up my hands and move into a field with a more appreciative audience. However, I happen to quite like my job, so before I jump ship, I would like to reexamine the conclusions drawn by the study.

Maybe 6% isn’t so bad after all. Consider for a moment the history of that little device that we have all come to know and love: the iPad. In March of 2010, the world seemed to be humming along just fine. People toted around their behemoth six-pound personal computers, and waved off marketers’ attempts to interest them in the “tablet” models introduced by Microsoft in 2001. Despite bold predictions for immediate adoption, by 2007, only 1.2% of PC sales were from tablets.

Amusing skepticism dominated the press: Wired magazine quoted a reporter as saying, “My PDA annoys the hell out of me, but it fits in my pocket. I suspect the Tablet will annoy me just as much, and will also annoy me further when I have to lug its bulky butt around town.” And then, on April 3, 2010, Apple launched the iPad, and we all got on board.

Progress happens in fits and starts, and it is difficult to predict when the next revolution will occur. Before online learning becomes a truly accepted method of instruction, technology and training will need to make some serious headway. However, considering that only 1.2% of the population was interested in tablets before the iPad, 6% isn’t such a bad start for online learning, right?

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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

Enjoy!

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CourseSmart Announces a Series of LMS Integrations to Improve Student and Faculty Access to Digital Course Materials

November 9th, 2011 by CourseSmart

CourseSmart®, the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and other digital resources, has recently partnered with several educational software platforms with the aim of seamlessly integrating CourseSmart software with services already being used by many institutions in higher education. CourseSmart is a leader in the eTextbook industry and this is further made evident with the company’s new single sign-on feature made available with this new service.

  • CourseSmart® Makes It Easy To Access Digital Course Materials through Custom Integrations Demonstrating its commitment to providing low cost digital course materials to students, CourseSmart recently announced it is expanding access to low-cost course materials through customized learning management system (LMS) integrations. With the ability to integrate into LMS platforms already used in schools via CourseSmart’s new Learning Tool Interoperability technology, more students and faculty are able to gain access to CourseSmart’s low-cost eTextbooks and eResources options. Additionally, by integrating with these systems, student and faculty workflows are streamlined with single sign-on access to the world’s largest catalog of digital course materials.
  • CourseSmart® Launches Integration for the Blackboard Learn Platform CourseSmart recently announced the new Blackboard Building Block™ for the Blackboard Learn™ platform. This new platform has been designed to integrate into the technology ecosystems already in place on university campuses. The Blackboard Building Block, which is free to higher education institutions, provides educators the opportunity to seamlessly create and share homework and assignments with students. And with the new single sign-on feature, students can log into Blackboard and get access to their CourseSmart materials without needing to remember a second set of credentials for CourseSmart.com access.
  • CourseSmart® Integrates With Desire2Learn® Learning Management System CourseSmart most recently announced it is partnering with Desire2Learn, a provider of teaching and learning platforms, to offer end-to-end integration programs which provide students and faculty one-stop access to their digital course materials. For instructors, utilizing the CourseSmart/Desire2Learn integration means accessing CourseSmart materials quickly and easily through the Desire2Learn platform using one set of credentials. Additionally, the integration allows for the use of CourseSmart’s eTextbook services, such as copying and pasting, annotating, sharing, and printing, all within the Desire2Learn platform.

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CourseSmart® and Campus Technology to Host Panel on Digital Course Materials Programs within Higher Education Institutions

November 8th, 2011 by CourseSmart

CourseSmart®, the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and digital course materials, and Campus Technology, a leading higher education technology publication, today announced details around their upcoming webinar, Making the Move to a Digital Campus: Best Practices and Pitfalls from the Front Lines, which will be held on November 10, 2011.

During the free, one-hour webinar, representatives from three institutions will share their unique experiences of adopting digital course materials on their campus, challenges encountered while integrating the technology and advice to colleges and universities considering a similar digital solution. Presenters include:

  • Dennis A. Trinkle, Ph.D., provost and chief academic officer at Harrison College

Moderated by Linda Briggs, contributing editor at Campus Technology, the panel will tackle key issues including faculty and student resistance to eTextbook programs as well as highlight the benefits each institution has experienced since adopting their digital course materials solution. Additional discussion includes how to:

  • Reduce costs up to 60% over traditional textbook and content delivery methods
  • Provide anytime, anywhere access to materials through any web-enabled mobile device
  • Meet adoption timeliness and transparency standards in course materials selection as stipulated in the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA)
  • Achieve greater ROI on existing campus platform investments
  • Provide faculty and students with instant and seamless access to course materials
  • Ensure the latest accessibility standard for students and faculty with disabilities

The webinar will be held Thursday, November 10, 2011, at 11 AM PT / 2 PM ET. To register for this free webinar, please visit http://ow.ly/7lhmM. And, don’t forget you can join the conversation on Twitter by following @CourseSmart_ and #edtechchat.

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Don’t Miss CourseSmart at EDUCAUSE 2011 in Philadelphia!

October 18th, 2011 by CourseSmart

Educause 2011 logo

 

CourseSmart is in the City of Brotherly Love!  We are descending on Philadelphia this week for the annual EDUCAUSE conference, a gathering of more than 4,000 educators, administrators, and thought leaders in the higher education IT industry.  In addition to chowing down on Philly cheesesteaks and doing our best Rocky impression on the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum, we look forward to networking with IT leaders and discussing new opportunities for providing students with equal and affordable access to digital course materials.  We will also be spending time with our publisher and institutional partners talking about our latest integrations with Desire to Learn, Pearson LearningStudio, and Blackboard Learn.

                                                                                              

We are thrilled to be a sponsor of the 2011 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, a distinction which allows us to host two refreshment breaks on the exhibit floor on Thursday, October 20.  Stop by to chat with a CourseSmart representative about our latest innovations, or just to pick up some SWAG!  If you can’t make it to the refreshment breaks, be sure to see CourseSmart CTO, Tom Hadfield, give a presentation in the Gilfus Education booth (#1457) on Wednesday, October 19, from 10:00-10:40am.  Tom will be discussing the current and future state of digital course materials, and the changing consumption patterns of today’s students. And, if you will not be attending this year’s conference, get the latest news and updates from Philadelphia by following @CourseSmart­_ on Twitter.

 

We are looking forward to an exciting and informative week in Philadelphia, and we hope to see you there!

 

- Nani Jansen, Marketing Coordinator, CourseSmart

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Western Governors University Partners With CourseSmart® to Provide Students and Instructors With a Robust Digital Experience

October 5th, 2011 by CourseSmart

CourseSmart®, the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and digital course materials, today announced a new relationship with Western Governors University (WGU), in which the university will integrate CourseSmart’s digital library into its online student portal, creating a comprehensive, single sign-on, platform where students and instructors can access their eTextbooks anytime, anywhere.WGU, a fully-accredited non-profit university with more than 26,000 students, began integrating CourseSmart’s eTextbooks into its online learning environment in April 2011. Significantly improving their workflow and overall learning experience, students are receiving direct access to the digital titles included in their courses through their existing WGU student portal accounts. Course mentors also have access to digital versions of current textbook offerings.

“We are constantly looking for new ways to improve our learning experience and make education more accessible to students by saving them time and reducing their costs,” said Margaret Korosec, manager of learning resources at WGU. “Integrating with CourseSmart allows us to streamline students’ access to their eTextbooks at the moment they need it, eliminating the need for students to purchase a hardcopy textbook, and greatly enhancing their ability to be academically successful.”

CourseSmart eTextbooks will be accessed online through the company’s newest reader platform and linked within the WGU online course of study to individual book chapters. This creates a guided learning environment that increases learning efficiency and also allows students to access features including the ability to annotate, bookmark, highlight, search, copy, paste, share and print within the eTextbook. Furthermore, the reader will offer the same reading experience when users are offline.

“As an entirely Web-based university, WGU has established an innovative model for online education that is not only affordable but widely accessible,” said Sean Devine, CEO at CourseSmart. “The WGU integration is an example of CourseSmart’s steadfast mission to continue expanding access to cost effective digital course materials. Additionally, we have integrated our 24-hour, 7-day support to address any questions from users, whether it be students, instructors or the institution.”

WGU has been recognized as a pioneer in the effort to make higher education more accessible and cost effective, winning the McGraw Prize in Education in 2010 and the Ralph E. Gomory Award for Quality Online Education by the Sloan Consortium, an association of organizations engaged in online learning.

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