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Alert! Scheduled Site Maintenance

November 19th, 2012 by CourseSmart

CourseSmart will undergo scheduled site maintenance on November 22, 12am-5am PT. During this time, CourseSmart.com and your digital rentals will not be available online.

To read eTextbooks offline during the maintenance, please remember to check them out to your offline Bookshelf before November 22.

Please see step by step instructions for reading offline: http://www.coursesmart.com/learnmore

CourseSmart at EDCAUSE, the Premier Gathering of Higher Education IT Professionals

November 6th, 2012 by CourseSmart

annual-conference

Somewhere in the range of 5,000 people are crowding into downtown Denver this week for the Annual EDUCAUSE conference, and CourseSmart is not going to miss out on the fun. The event promises to be better than ever, with hundreds of presentations on topics ranging from IT leadership to analytics to digital content.

The exhibit hall, which is being built up around me as I sit here writing, will soon transform into a spectacular city of vendors. The rumor is that there will be nearly 300 companies looking to partner with institutions to help realize their visions for the future.

You would be hard-pressed to throw a stick and not have it hit something CourseSmart-related at this convention, but in case you would like help finding us, here are a few options:

•Stop by our booth: #1465

•Come to our panel presentation: http://www.educause.edu/annual-conference/2012/getting-smart-about-educational-analytics
Wednesday, November 7, 10:30-11:20am
Mile High Ballroom 2B/3B
Getting Smart About Educational Analytics
Moderated by Ellen Wagner, WICHE/WCET

•Join us for refreshments: CourseSmart is sponsoring a refreshment break
Thursday, November 8, 10-10:30am.
Stop by and chat at any of the Grab N’ Go areas in the Exhibit Hall

•Look up! CourseSmart has partnered with IMS Global Learning Consortium, and Convention Center signage tells you where to learn more.
Hint: http://www.imsglobal.org/imsrevolution.html

For those of you in Denver, we look forward to seeing you soon! For those of you who are unable to make it, you can always contact us at http://www.coursesmart.com/go/institutions/contactus. EDUCAUSE, here we come!

Etextbooks: A New Chapter in Studying

October 16th, 2012 by CourseSmart

Imagine not having to carry what feels like the weight of the world on your shoulders—a backpack full of heavy books. Instead, you can carry just one device and have all your textbooks accessible with the tap of your finger.

Etextbooks, a convenient, digital version of your heavy textbooks, are an eco-friendly way to consume your class materials without wasting paper or hauling extra pounds to class. In addition to going green, you can organize all your etextbooks onto one digital shelf and never have to scramble before class again.
CourseSmart, one of the most popular apps for etextbooks, is available on iOS and Android devices, Kindle Fire, and any web-enabled device. You may not be able to stay focused and read full chapters on a screen as small as your iPhone, but viewing your etextbook on your phone would come in handy while riding the bus or last-minute cramming before a test.

There are other benefits to studying sans paper and pen; here are a few tips to help you become proficient with CourseSmart etextbooks:

Easy-to-navigate Layout

At the top left of the screen, you will find a tab for the outline, table of contents, and a search option. To the right, you will find print options and a jump-to-page option. All the features are displayed at the top of the page and are all help you to navigate your etextbook with ease (see below).

table-of-contents-screen-shot-33

Simple Search Function

Instead of flipping through chapters to find a certain topic, you can search within a page, chapter, or entire book—making studying and writing papers easier with this faster and more convenient topic locator. The search box shows you how you can narrow down your results and highlights the terms in just one click.

search-screenshot-32

Highlighting and Note Taking

You can also highlight sections and make notes to yourself without permanently inking up your textbook. Notes appear to the right of the text to click on whenever needed; however, you may find that writing terms down on an old school notebook may be better for memorization. Electronic notes are a great feature, but deciding which note-taking strategy is best for you depends on your writing and typing speed, and how you prefer to review notes. To make electronic notes, simply select a section of the page and a box appears for you to highlight, copy, or write a note for that section.

note-highlight-screen-shot-32

Convenience, cost, and environmentally-savvy factors considered, extextbooks are on the rise. “We had over 35 courses with ebooks in the Summer quarter and we had an 80% adoption rate of the ebooks,” said Stella Coker, SUPPORT+ Resource Center Manager. “We will have additional courses in the Fall, and I am looking forward to seeing if the adoption percentage holds, increases, or even declines.” As a Rasmussen College student, the etextbooks are available on the student portal and the Personal Support Center is open to any student who needs etextbook assistance.


About the Author: Abby Hermes is a proofreader on the Creative Team in the Marketing Department at Rasmussen College. She uses her meticulous eye to spot inaccuracies in web, email, and print content. Abby also provides useful and entertaining blog articles to help students throughout the lifecycle of their college career.

These Stores Are Digital and So Can You: Digital Best Practices (with a nod and apologies to Stephen Colbert)

August 1st, 2012 by CourseSmart

Lynne Williams, CourseSmart’s Director of Business Development, has compiled her thoughts on how college bookstores can succeed in the digital revolution sweeping higher education:

Bookstore

Why are some stores so successful in selling digital textbooks and others not so much? What successful stores have done exemplifies implementation of the best digital practices, all of which any store can do.

1. The guiding force at all successful stores is the ability to offer students as many options as possible—new, used, rental, and digital. That includes adopting the digital version, if available, for every title, unless an instructor specifically requested that a digital title not be made available.
2. Management philosophy and staff buy-in are key elements in a successful digital program. The desire to offer all options is generally part of a store’s overall plan, and as such, staff recognizes the value of offering digital texts.
3. Digital titles are available both in the store and on the store’s e-commerce site.
4. The stores invest in marketing that they offer digital textbooks. On each store’s website, there is information about digital books, either as part of an FAQ or on a separate page, and digital titles are listed along with the other options for a student’s course needs. In the store, cards, often designed beyond a generic template or in bright colors, are on the shelf next to print options.

Successful stores tell students about the digital option often and in many ways: Facebook posts, banners, posters, emails, countertop signs, online school newspaper advertising, orientation packages, and new student presentations. One very successful store provides specific information to Orientation Leaders so they can go to a shelf card and speak intelligently about digital and the savings a student can recognize. To help students better understand digital, stores provided a technology resource. Stores have had an IT Bar in the store during rush; another store had a table at the school’s Tech Test Drive, an event held to showcase the use of technology in the classroom, and at a Student Services Fair with laptops so students could experiment. The best idea is an eTextbook demo station available in the store to show students what a digital book looks like and what they can do with them.

These stores also make sure that the entire institution, especially faculty, knows the store sells digital textbooks. They provide digital text information at department meetings, new faculty orientation, and coordinators events, in communications with the faculty, and on adoption forms.

Finally, good staff training is essential to the marketing plan. The textbook floor staff, especially student workers who understand the need for low-cost options and who have been trained in the digital textbook process, can be particularly effective in explaining digital textbooks and their advantages to their peers. One store provides “cheat sheets” for the staff and at another, student workers are thoroughly trained in small groups.

5. These stores find they are successful in “off the beaten path” programs, especially in situations where the students never come to the bookstore—or even to campus. One store’s top-selling digital title is for an online English course, and the store plans to work closely with the school’s New Media Extended Learning program to make sure they promote eTextbooks for the fall. Another has found success in business classes at a remote campus. There is great potential in programs such as these or in programs that enroll non-traditional students. Successful stores sell eTextbooks across the curriculum but business students seem to purchase the most.

As I was gathering this information, I was struck by the commonality of practices among these the stores which are successful in selling digital textbooks. What they do is interesting and effective, and no one practice seems out of reach for any store. Implementing these best practices will help you maximize the potential of eTextbook sales in your stores.

CourseSmart is at Desire2Learn FUSION!

July 17th, 2012 by CourseSmart

D2L Fusion

I don’t think I have passed out this many stickers since a road trip I took two years ago with three kindergarteners. Desire2Learn is hosting its 9th Annual D2L FUSION Conference, and has set up an elaborate contest involving stickers, prizes, and pins. And lest you think the higher education community is too “mature” for such games, let me assure you that this group is so eager to gain points for their teams that they are literally knocking over tables to get stickers from me. I am frightened.

In all seriousness, though, the show so far has been spectacular. We couldn’t ask for a better setting than San Diego, and the hosts have been nothing but gracious. The keynote speech on Monday was given by Sal Khan, founder of the infamous Khan Academy. The caliber of speakers and sessions set up for the next few days is impressive to say the least.

CourseSmart, not surprisingly, is taking part in the conference. We have a booth in the exhibit hall (complete with not one, not two, but THREE different types of candy), and will be presenting alongside Ray Bertani, Director for the Center of Distributed Education at Chattanooga State Community College. If you happen to read this post before 3pm on July 17, rush to Room L3-308 for what promises to be an engaging and interactive presentation!

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CourseSmart at APSCU

June 21st, 2012 by CourseSmart

apscu
Ah Southwest Airlines…you may not be glamorous, but gosh darn it you are delightfully average. I am currently 10,000 feet in the air, happily snuggled in with my fellow passengers. Though travel isn’t for everyone, I honestly love every part of it: the lines, the turbulence, the “menu” card in the seat pocket (am I the only person who reads through it every time I get on a plane, expecting that maybe this will be the flight when they finally decide to offer fois gras and chocolate truffles in lieu of Nabisco® selections?).
I am incredibly lucky to have a job that offers me the opportunity to travel so frequently, often to places that I have never been before. In fact, remarkably, this will be my first trip to Las Vegas. CourseSmart is exhibiting at the APSCU Convention & Expo, an annual meeting of more than 1,500 members of the private, proprietary higher education sector. We are in Booth #724, and – warning: shameless plug – are excited to host an iPad giveaway!
For those of you that are attending the conference, stop by our booth with your business card and a CourseSmart screen cleaner (conveniently stocked at the collateral stands by the registration desks) in order to enter for a chance to win.
For those of you that are not attending the conference, wish me luck on my first trip to Vegas! I have heard that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I am concerned about the possibility that what happens in Vegas will stay on Facebook and squelch my dreams of making it to the Oval Office. Oh well, I’ll take a Southwest flight over Air Force One any day.

-Nani Jansen, CourseSmart Events Coordinator

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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

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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CourseSmart Welcomes Apple to the Party!

January 20th, 2012 by CourseSmart

In response to Apple’s announcement yesterday regarding their entry into the eTextbook market, we at CourseSmart, as industry leaders, would like to welcome them to the party! With the explosion in popularity of eTexts over the past year, it’s certainly no surprise that Apple would want to make a late entry into the market.

Here are our initial thoughts:

We’re pleased about the impact Apple’s statement has made on the way people view the act of accessing educational course materials today. Any announcement which brings more awareness to digital course materials is good for students, and will help move the industry forward. However, yesterday’s Apple offerings left us with more questions than answers.

Here are our initial questions:

Are the apps only available for the iPad or will Apple become “device agnostic?” According to Student Monitor data that was released yesterday, only 9% of Higher Education students own an iPad. Although we do not know, we assume the number may be even lower for the K-12 market due to the price of an iPad. What about the millions of cash-strapped students who already own an Android device, a Kindle Fire or a Nook? Unless Apple intends to offer on other devices, the market will be underserved. CourseSmart was the first to develop an iPhone app, Android app, and Web app that allows even Kindle Fire & Nook owners to access CourseSmart eTexts through their very own device.

Who is developing the content? The new iBooks Author app allows users to create and publish books for the iPad by dragging and resizing images and text, adding definitions, movies, and 3D objects. Apple stated that anyone with JavaScript or HTML5 skills can make their eText interactive. We doubt that faculty will be easily convinced to create their own content when they have hundreds of papers to grade and have to learn JavaScript or HTML5 in order to incorporate interactivity. In fact, the best and most trusted content is created by publishers in partnership with authors.

Will using iBooks 2 offer improved learning outcomes? While it’s great to see Apple providing many parity features that CourseSmart and other providers already offer, iBooks 2 isn’t really reinventing textbooks. Our publishers already have, with “eResources” which are much more advanced technologically. CourseSmart has the largest catalog of eResources from all the major publishers, who have partnered with the most credible authors. Interactivity is cool and interesting, but only if connected to improving student learning outcomes.

The development and consumption of digital content is well underway. Though Apple’s late entry to the market was not entirely unexpected, its impact on learning remains yet to be proven. CourseSmart, founded in 2007, is the world’s largest provider of digital content. Our catalog includes over 90% of the textbooks in use today. CourseSmart customers enjoy anytime, anywhere access. We look forward to the future of the digital publishing industry, and we’re eager to continue to be the market leader for our millions of student, faculty and institutional users.

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