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Is Using Groupon a Good Deal for Higher Ed?

September 26th, 2011 by CourseSmart

Most of us use Groupon for things like discounts on dining and spa treatments. Some of us even score on skydiving and horseback riding lessons. But have you ever considered saving on something like a college education or another big-ticket item?

One of the latest deals from Groupon, a daily deals site offering steep discounts on everything from food to concert tickets, is for college tuition. National Louis University in Chicago, IL offered a Groupon for a class in their graduate program. The class, which is an intro to teaching course, has a cost of $2,232 for the semester. The Groupon price for the class was $950 which is a 57% savings.

Anyone can buy a Groupon, however in order to score the class deal the purchaser/user must have or should be working toward a college degree. And while anyone with an undergraduate degree can take the course, it does not mean automatic enrollment in the graduate program at National Louis University. The 10-week, three-credit course counts towards a graduate education and is meant to introduce students to a career in teaching.

This deal for education is a first of its kind and is also a good test to see whether consumers will begin using sites like Groupon to make other big ticket purchases. Most purchases on Groupon are impulse buys, often on things people will never actually use, which is why items up for purchase are usually lower cost things such as meals and beauty services. This is also why a host of sites like Lifesta exist where people can sell their unused Groupons at face-value.

Groupon offerings for big ticket items have cropped up before, most notably when the company partnered with a car dealership in Michigan to offer $200 for a $500 voucher towards the purchase of a new or used car. When the Groupon didn’t garner enough customers for the deal to “tip,” the deadline was extended several additional days before being deemed a flop because not enough people made the purchase.

By the close date of the Groupon offering, National Louis University was able to “tip” the deal for their three-credit course class. However, it remains to be seen whether future deals like this will also be a success. Would you buy a Groupon for a discounted education?

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CourseSmart® Study Reveals Telling Link Between Communication and Study Preferences of High School and College Students to Future College Classroom Landscape

September 20th, 2011 by CourseSmart

CourseSmart®, the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and digital course materials, released the results of a proprietary research study exploring the effects of technology dependency on learning preferences for today’s high school and college students. The CourseSmart-commissioned study, which was conducted by AMP Insights, the strategic planning and consumer insights group at AMP Agency, compared 503 current high school and 515 current college-aged students to understand their device and platform adoption rates as well as attitudes, stressors and preferences, offering a telling window into the current and future learning habits of students.

Among the findings, the study supports the idea that today’s tech savvy students want stimulating experiences and seek thought-provoking and interactive learning environments. Technology plays an integral role in providing students with an interactive classroom experience with 76 percent of high school students and 79 percent of college students claiming they would find it appealing if a college offered a classroom experience where they can ask professors questions in class through Twitter or another social networking site.

Personal preferences are not the only factors that play into how students view the growing role of technology inside the college classroom - the perceived popularity of and the costs associated with digital course materials are also important. The study finds that students are worried about the financial stresses of their college education at a younger age, with 13 percent of high school students claiming they began looking into financing their college education in junior high as opposed to 6 percent of college students who claim to have done the same. Financial fears could also deter conventional study habits, paving the way for increased usage of digital course materials: 63 percent of college students think eTextbooks are less expensive than traditional textbooks.

“As financial concerns affect students at earlier ages, the value and importance they place on a college education is at a new premium, especially when it comes to course materials and other associated items which they can control,” said CourseSmart Chief Marketing Officer Jill Ambrose. “Many students view eTextbooks as a money-saver, and are increasingly willing and more likely to invest in a tablet or other device that allows them to maximize their budget for the duration of their college experience.”

Unsurprisingly, the study also found that the majority (52 percent) of college students use an Android™-based smartphone or iPhone® device for which CourseSmart has free downloadable applications. In comparison, 31 percent of high school students use an Android-based smartphone or iPhone. Ownership of tablet computers among high school and college students is still relatively low compared to smartphone ownership; however, the percentage of students that own a tablet is still impressive: 20 percent of high school students have a tablet computer compared with 24 percent of college students who own them. While the majority of college students (68 percent) continue to only use hard copy textbooks, 65 percent of college students are open to the idea of using eTextbooks. High school students shared the same sentiment, with 64 percent being open to using eTextbooks.

“The gap between study preferences and habits between high school and college students is closing,” Ambrose continued. “High school students are increasingly open to and expecting the same types of interactive learning materials that college students have already been exposed to, and both groups are constantly looking ahead and embracing the future that is eTextbooks and digital course materials.”

CourseSmart will issue a formal white paper that captures full study findings this fall. To learn more about CourseSmart, including the latest company news and innovations, please visit:

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Parents: Don’t Be Your Student’s Biggest Facebook Stalker

September 2nd, 2011 by CourseSmart

Whether heading back to school as an upper classman or starting off as a freshman, transitioning into college used to come with a lot of freedom. Students spoke with their parents daily, or even weekly over the phone, sometimes sending emails back and forth and almost always limiting the amount of information they provided with their parents.

Times have since changed with the evolution of technology and now, much to some students’ dismay, parents have started keeping tabs on them via social networking sites. According to an info graphic from, more than half of all parents have been using Facebook to spy on their teenage kids. Even still, of the roughly 150 million Facebook users, some 28 million of them are over the age of 45, reports Inside Facebook.

It’s easy for parents to want to keep tabs on their college-aged children via the social networking site but this can often hinder the child’s ability to make social connections and learn to live independently. With parents often a Facebook message away, it’s much easier for a child to go to them for help before first thinking of a solution to a problem on their own.

On the opposite end of the spectrum it’s easy for parents to snoop around on their child’s page, interjecting into otherwise “private” conversations or tagging their children in photographs without asking. What parents see as being helpful (shouldn’t you be studying instead of going to that party?), many college students see as being a nuisance, as is evidenced by a host of new websites such as “Oh Crap. My Parents Joined Facebook.”

A recent article posted by Mashable highlights several tips to help parents communicate with their children via Facebook without seeming overbearing.

1. Let your student set some ground rules: When a parent “friends” their child on Facebook, it’s up to the child to limit what mom and dad can and can’t see. Set some ground rules and discuss what your child feels is acceptable (commenting on a status update, versus tagging them in a photo, let’s say).

2. Respect your student’s space: It’s easy to want to jump into a conversation and call your child out on something they did. Instead, message them privately to spare everyone the embarrassment later.

3. Brach out from the usual platforms: Now, more than ever, there are more private ways of connecting with your child online. Skype now offers a group video feature which means mom, dad and other family members can all join in on a chat session with a child who is off at school.

4. Avoid over-communicating: Just because social networking keeps you connected to your children 24/7 doesn’t mean you always need to be reaching out to them. Going off to college is about growing up and learning to live independently from your parents.

Sure it’s nice to hear from mom and dad once-in-awhile, but when parents become too connected they might as well just pack up and move into their child’s dorm room too.

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CourseSmart®: Helping Students Shop for eTextbooks via Facebook

August 23rd, 2011 by CourseSmart

CourseSmart®, the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and other digital resources, recently launched its latest innovation: a social commerce shopping experience that will allow students to rent CourseSmart materials directly from the brand’s official Facebook page.Facebook Shop Image

Students will be able to access CourseSmart’s catalog of eTextbooks and eResources directly on Facebook through a secure shopping cart and tab on the brand’s page. Shopping within the tab, students will be able to search for eTextbooks by title, ISBN number or keyword and then add the items to their cart. When ready to checkout, students will be linked directly to secure checkout at

“CourseSmart has always made it a priority to provide students with the course materials they need in the most convenient way possible, and our new Facebook experience is the latest breakthrough in that arena,” said Jill Ambrose, chief marketing officer at CourseSmart. “We are excited to provide accessibility to more than 20,000 of the latest eTextbook offerings to college students where they already spend time, on their favorite social networking site.”

With so many college students already on Facebook, using the social network for social commerce was a natural transition for CourseSmart. This new Facebook feature is the latest in a series of industry firsts for the brand, which launched a beta version of its first-to-market HTML5 eReader earlier this summer, allowing users to access CourseSmart materials online and offline.

To purchase eTextbooks via Facebook or for more information on CourseSmart’s new social commerce tab visit

Facebook Shop Search Page

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Cha-Ching More with CourseSmart’s 30 Days – 30 Prizes Sweepstakes!

August 17th, 2011 by CourseSmart

30 Days 30 Prizes

Calling all college students! There are only 21 days left in our 30 Days, 30 Prizes Sweepstakes. That means you only have 21 more chances to scoop up some awesome prizes!

As the leading provider of eTextbooks and other digital course materials, CourseSmart® understands college students. We’ve been there before ourselves. We know how hard it is to balance school, work and fun so that’s why we’re giving away prizes that we know you won’t want to live without!

We’ve already given away a slew of free eTextbooks but we know there’s more to your life than school work. Sure buying textbooks can get expensive and it’s nice to get a few for free, but what about the other stuff like traveling, downloading music, and consuming all that coffee to help you pull those all-nighters? Being a college student isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t cheap.

With CourseSmart’s 30 Days 30 Prizes Sweepstakes, you’ll have the chance to keep some money in your wallet for munching at 24-hour diners, hanging out with friends, or getting cool gear for your dorm while still stocking up on the essentials. We’re talking coffee, iTunes® gift cards, iPads®, concert tickets and other cool stuff! And just for entering the sweepstakes, you’ll receive a 10% off coupon for use towards your next eTextbook purchase at That’s a sweet deal in itself!

If you want to get your hands on some of these and other cool prizes, submit your entry at The entry is quick and easy. Here you’ll also be able to see all of our past winners and prizes they’ve won. Good luck!

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CourseSmart Unleashes Industry’s First HTML5 Reader

July 21st, 2011 by CourseSmart

Today CourseSmart® announced the beta launch of its newest reader platform providing users with online, offline, anything, anywhere access to their eTextbooks. The first in the industry to utilize HTML5 technology for eTextbooks and coupled with the latest version of Mozilla Firefox 5.0, this cloud-based offering now provides the same productivity features whether users are online or offline.

“CourseSmart’s use of ground-breaking technology and our innovative approach further demonstrates the company’s commitment to providing students and faculty with extraordinary access to affordable, outcome-oriented digital course materials,” said Sean Devine, CEO at CourseSmart. “Eliminating the necessity for users to make a choice between online and offline access is a significant step forward in our goal of providing students and faculty access to digital course materials from any device, anywhere.”

Students who have active online eTextbook digital rental access will immediately enjoy the benefits of the new offline capabilities. Additionally, instructor textbook evaluation services will also be available on the new reader platform, allowing instructors free access to evaluate more than 90 percent of all core higher education eTextbooks whether online or offline. The new reader experience also extends to CourseSmart’s productivity tools allowing users to highlight, search, copy, paste, take notes, share and print while offline. The platform synchronizes user notes across all modals, whether it is from their desktop computer, laptop, iPad®, iPhone®, iPod Touch®, Android™-based device, or any Web-enabled device.

A full list of features for the new reader is available here. And, just in time for back-to-school, try the new reader with a book you need for this semester at

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Can University Publishers Lead the Way to Digital Course Material Adoption?

July 19th, 2011 by CourseSmart

Many industry analysts have pinpointed university faculty as an essential element for college students’ adoption of e-textbooks and digital course materials. Stanford’s recent decision to offer digital versions of university press course materials opens the door for the academic press to create a new lead into student adoption of digital materials.

Stanford University is among several larger universities now offering digital book rentals to create more cost effective solutions for cash-strapped students while also helping to lead the transition into e-textbooks. The digital PDF versions of what universities might normally offer as spiral bound, computer-printed materials are available for a limited subscription period at a discounted price or flat fee. Despite the highly variable cost of an academic press e-book (from $10 to 75% of the cost of the actual textbook), students can gain quick access to needed materials for a portion of the price they would pay for the print version of the book.

Of the larger university publishers offering digital subscriptions, none have admitted to making much of a profit on their e-book subscriptions, however, they are quick to counter that the objective of their entrance into the digital book market is to introduce digital materials to students who are either unable to purchase a print version or are interested another viable option for course reading and studying.

As more universities offer digital course materials for rental, and students become comfortable with digital alternatives to print textbooks, university officials are hoping to pave the way to more widespread digital material adoption.

What is your history with digital course materials? Have you used a digital book from a university press to help you decide whether an e-textbook was right for you?

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Is College Worth It? The Debate Continues…

June 29th, 2011 by CourseSmart

Lately, the debate over whether the cost of a post-secondary education is really worth it for young people has come to the forefront in the news. With rates of unemployed college graduates continuing to rise, and tuitions increasing just as rapidly, many students and parents are questioning whether college is a worthwhile investment in a young adult’s future. A recent report from Anthony Carnevale and his Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, asserts there is a need for a college-educated workforce to help pull the United States out of a period of slow economic growth.

Carnevale strongly believes that despite the inability of college graduates to find employment in the current economy and the cost of education becoming a hardship for many working families, to not acknowledge the long-term benefits and opportunities afforded by a college education is short-sighted. In analyzing historical data from several decades back, Carnevale and his co-author Stephen Rose found that up until 1980 the number of college graduates remained in line with employer demand for a college-educated workforce. As the number of college graduates declined from 1990 to 2010, employer demand for a college-educated workforce continued to grow, creating a deficiency in skilled employees entering the workforce.

Today students and parents are thinking more critically about financing a college education. Many families rely on financial aid and scholarships to support their children’s educational goals, while adult students consider the employment opportunities available upon graduation and evaluate their ability to take on massive amounts of debt before heading back to the classroom. When facing a decision that could ultimately mean accumulating $50,000 to $100,000 in student loan debt and likely not result in immediate employment, it is easy for parents and students to fail to acknowledge the long-term economic impact currently distressing Carnevale.

Did you consider student loan debt and job placement after graduation before decided to attend college? Have you decided against attending college because of cost and/or the potential for difficulties finding employment? How do you feel about the decision you made?

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Are Mobile “Classroom” Apps the Future of Collegiate Learning?

May 19th, 2011 by CourseSmart

In an effort to make higher education available to all types of students, some universities are launching mobile classroom extensions via an iPhone/iPad app, thereby making access to extended course materials, classroom discussions and assignments more flexible for the non-traditional student. While many students feel these mobile apps enhance their ability to learn, detractors believe a mobile app dilutes the value of education.

A widely known, for-profit university that has seen great success with the mobile app, is quick to call the experience an extension of the online classroom, making the learning experience flexible for its large population of online students. For a university founded on providing secondary education that meets the needs of non-traditional students, the mobile app benefits its intended market and increases the flexibility of the curriculum. Bringing the classroom to a mobile device also increases accessibility and reaches a greater number of students.

Those who challenge the idea of a mobile app “classroom” are quick to comment on the degradation of the learning process and the “on-the-go” perception a mobile app creates, arguing that universities who use them are diluting the value of a traditional college education. They also argue that learning designed to take place via a mobile app places little value on the focus and interaction required for a robust educational experience. They further insist that long-term retention of knowledge is closely linked to studying from physical materials, and an app removes the acute attention normally needed when learning from physical course materials or participating in face-to-face discussions.

The role of technology in the learning process continues to evolve, but at a seemingly much slower rate than that of the college student. And, with college students’ growing need for flexibility and mobility in their educational experiences, a “classroom” mobile app just may be the future of learning.

Are you a student who uses a mobile app? How has the app changed your classroom/learning experience? Faculty, would you like your university to introduce a mobile app for online course offerings?

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The Student’s Wireless Chain

May 13th, 2011 by CourseSmart

After reading Joshua Kim’s Technology and Learning blog post titled “The Wireless Chain,” I faced the realization that until I read this blog post, I had never really examined my own wireless chain, or my constant connectedness to the internet, email, or even textbooks and online courses. It occurred to me that while this chain might not be crucial to me, there are hundreds of thousands of students who count on the strength and reliability of a wireless chain.

For those not familiar with the term “wireless chain”, Kim describes it as “the degree to which a person can move from place-to-place with uninterrupted access to wireless Internet.” For a college student, this chain can include wireless access available across college campuses, bookstores, coffee shops, dorm rooms, off-campus apartments, and any place in between. And, access to a continuous chain is vital for a student’s productivity as much as it would be for a business traveler, especially with coursework, studying, writing and reading sometimes all requiring constant access to materials online. Unlike me, the continuous nature of a college student’s wireless chain might be so ingrained in their lifestyle, that they hardly notice its existence until there is a failure or interruption in the chain. Just ask any student who struggles to connect to Blackboard via an overloaded campus wireless network.

It’s hard to ignore the importance of a wireless chain with the existence of laptops, Smartphones, and now tablet devices, and while a college student might not always be conscious of its existence, it shouldn’t diminish the need for college campuses and even businesses around campuses to create a seamless wireless chain.

If you are a college student, have you ever thought about how many links are in your wireless chain? Are there places you would choose to add more links to your chain?

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