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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 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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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: www.coursesmart.com.

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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 http://www.coursesmart.com/go/freetrial.

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CourseSmart Launches the First eTextbook Application for Android Devices

April 20th, 2011 by CourseSmart

CourseSmart, the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and digital course materials, further expanded its mobile footprint today with the launch of CourseSmart for Android 1.0, a mobile application specifically designed for the Android Operating System (AOS). Students and faculty across the country can now access all of their eTextbooks on their AOS-enabled smart phones, netbooks and tablets.

“Increasing demand for mobile access to eTextbooks coupled with the exponential growth of Android-run devices has led to record numbers of students and faculty embracing mobile devices across their institutions,” said Sean Devine, CEO of CourseSmart. “The Android application is another example of the importance of our device-agnostic mobile strategy, ensuring all students and faculty can enjoy a superior eTextbook experience on devices they choose to own.”

CourseSmart for Android 1.0 leverages the unique capabilities of the devices running the AOS to provide a truly advanced eTextbook experience, including the ability to:

  • Search for a topic within a single book or across an entire eTextbook stack and access the table of contents;
  • Zoom in on text and graphs;
  • Scroll through or jump to individual pages;
  • Read eTextbooks in landscape or portrait mode;
  • View, add and edit text notes.
  • Enjoy anytime, anywhere access to 90 percent of all core higher education textbooks in use today; and
  • Shop for additional books at up to 60 percent off using a specialized AOS version of CourseSmart’s website

Compatible with the most popular Android-run devices, including the Motorola Droid, Samsung Fascinate, HTC Droid Incredible, HTC Droid Eris, HTC myTouch 3G Slider, HTC Evo and Samsung Galaxy 7, the first Android tablet, the application has been extensively tested by students and faculty prior to release.

“The App was very easy to use and figure out. The layout and organization was well thought out and simple. I love that I can now access my books from anywhere,” said Carlisa Mikels, Bachelor of Science in Psychology Candidate at the University of Houston-Victoria.

“Knowing that the App is built for phones and tablets, I was impressed. It was easier to select books, and they displayed nicely in the Galaxy Tab,” said Pete Rottier, Center for eLearning Instructor at Cleveland State University.

The CourseSmart for Android application is available for free from the Android Market and can be accessed at http://www.coursesmart.com/go/mobile. Additionally, in an effort to protect the student, faculty and institutional users of our App, CourseSmart’s mobile privacy policy has been certified by TRUSTe.

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