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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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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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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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CourseSmart: An Accessible Textbook Solution

June 19th, 2012 by CourseSmart

This blog post was written by Alena Roberts, a graduate student with a print disability, who successfully uses CourseSmart to read her course materials.

alena-roberts

I remember making the transition to audio books from print books my senior year in high school. I was grateful to have my books in a format that was accessible to me, but reading textbooks on tape was extremely inefficient. I was hoping that by the time I finished college there would be a better solution, but sadly even in 2004 I was stuck fighting with my books on tape. This month I start graduate school, and I’m happy to report that books on tape are a thing of the past, and thanks to companies like CourseSmart, so is the struggle to find textbooks in an accessible format.

For most students finding their textbooks usually involves a trip to the school bookstore or a simple search for them on the web. This isn’t the case for students with print disabilities. If I bought my textbook from the bookstore it would be useless to me. During my undergrad, I needed weeks or months of advanced notice on what books I would need to make sure that either Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic had them or that my school’s disability services center could record them. Now that books are in digital format, students with disabilities still need advance notice, but their chances of having the book in accessible format is much higher. There are obviously still exceptions to this rule, but there may come a day when all textbooks are easily accessed by people with print disabilities.

CourseSmart is doing what they can to be a part of the solution. The website is a database of thousands of textbooks and thanks to their accessible reader, these textbooks are usable by students with print disabilities on a variety of platforms including PC and iOS. Students with disabilities need only to ask the company once to turn on the accessible reader and from then on it’s attached to your account. CourseSmart allows you to rent books for a fraction of what it would cost to buy them. They even have the books tagged to help make navigation easier, and if a book isn’t tagged you can request that tags be added.

There are numerous reasons why textbooks being available in electronic format is so beneficial to those of us with print disabilities. For one, many of them can be read on a braille display so if braille is the preferred medium then thousands of dollars don’t have to be spent to print the book in braille. Digital books have navigation tags that allow us to jump to parts of the books whether it be by page, heading, or even paragraph. No longer do we have to hit fast forward or rewind and hope that the person recording the book remembered to put a beep for every page. Nor do we have to hunt for a specific page number. Finally, having our books available on devices such as the iPhone means we aren’t carrying heavy equipment with us everywhere we go.

Thanks, Alena!

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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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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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Does Your Major Matter?

February 16th, 2012 by CourseSmart

Should I frame my diploma? When did the whole cap and gown tradition start? Is this graduation speaker going to wrap it up already?
"Now what?"

A lot of things go through your mind as you wait to cross the stage at college graduation. One that can stir up fear, however, is “Am I going to get a job with this major?”
In an Read the rest of this entry …

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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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