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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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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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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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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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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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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: www.coursesmart.com.

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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 onlineschools.com, 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.com.

“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 www.facebook.com/CourseSmart.

Facebook Shop Search Page

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