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CourseSmart at WCET Annual Conference: Using Technology to Enhance Higher Education Teaching and Learning

October 31st, 2012 by CourseSmart

wcet-connect

And we thought it would calm down after Back-to-School season…

CourseSmart is firing on all cylinders as we head into the last few months of the year (can it really be November already??) We have two conferences and a handful of big announcements coming up, and we could not be more excited about everything going on around here!

Up next: the WCET Annual Conference, in San Antonio, Texas. For those of you that don’t know about WCET (WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies), it is an organization that champions “the adoption of effective practices and policies, advancing excellence in technology-enhanced teaching and learning in higher education”. CourseSmart is privileged to have been a partner of WCET for a number of years, and we can’t wait to see what is in store for this year’s conference!

CourseSmart will participate in quite a few events at the conference, which runs from October 31 – November 3. If you are in town, be sure to stop by and see us!

WCET Tabletop Expo: Thursday, November 1, 10:15-10:45am and 2:45-3:15pm
If you want more information about CourseSmart, please feel free to stop by our table.

“Content for Free Range Learners” Panel Session: Thursday, November 1, 10:45-Noon
Shannon Meadows, CourseSmart SVP of Business Development, will be on a panel discussing digital learning content in all its forms and formats: commercial, open, and faculty/student published content.

“Infrastructure for Digital Integration” Session: Friday, November 2, 9:30-10:45am
Chris Manriquez, CSU Fullerton’s associate vice president and information technology and academic technology officer, will discuss his institution’s digital textbook pilot program.

Buzz Breakfast Session - “Cracking the Code on Digital Course Materials”: Saturday, November 3, 8-9am
Come and chat with us over breakfast! We will be tackling big questions about how to increase student adoption and engagement with digital course materials.

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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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Higher Education Faculty Members: Skeptical Innovators

July 1st, 2012 by CourseSmart

Faculty and Online Education, 2012

Faculty don’t dig online learning. So concludes the recently-published Inside Higher Ed article examining faculty attitudes about the quality of online learning. According to the Babson Survey Research Group, which conducted the surveys summarized in the article, a meager 6% of faculty members consider online learning outcomes to be superior to those achieved through face-to-face instruction.

Given the fact that my career depends almost entirely on faculty adoption of digital course materials, this is a troublesome statistic indeed. I suppose I should throw up my hands and move into a field with a more appreciative audience. However, I happen to quite like my job, so before I jump ship, I would like to reexamine the conclusions drawn by the study.

Maybe 6% isn’t so bad after all. Consider for a moment the history of that little device that we have all come to know and love: the iPad. In March of 2010, the world seemed to be humming along just fine. People toted around their behemoth six-pound personal computers, and waved off marketers’ attempts to interest them in the “tablet” models introduced by Microsoft in 2001. Despite bold predictions for immediate adoption, by 2007, only 1.2% of PC sales were from tablets.

Amusing skepticism dominated the press: Wired magazine quoted a reporter as saying, “My PDA annoys the hell out of me, but it fits in my pocket. I suspect the Tablet will annoy me just as much, and will also annoy me further when I have to lug its bulky butt around town.” And then, on April 3, 2010, Apple launched the iPad, and we all got on board.

Progress happens in fits and starts, and it is difficult to predict when the next revolution will occur. Before online learning becomes a truly accepted method of instruction, technology and training will need to make some serious headway. However, considering that only 1.2% of the population was interested in tablets before the iPad, 6% isn’t such a bad start for online learning, right?

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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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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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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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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 Announces a Series of LMS Integrations to Improve Student and Faculty Access to Digital Course Materials

November 9th, 2011 by CourseSmart

CourseSmart®, the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and other digital resources, has recently partnered with several educational software platforms with the aim of seamlessly integrating CourseSmart software with services already being used by many institutions in higher education. CourseSmart is a leader in the eTextbook industry and this is further made evident with the company’s new single sign-on feature made available with this new service.

  • CourseSmart® Makes It Easy To Access Digital Course Materials through Custom Integrations Demonstrating its commitment to providing low cost digital course materials to students, CourseSmart recently announced it is expanding access to low-cost course materials through customized learning management system (LMS) integrations. With the ability to integrate into LMS platforms already used in schools via CourseSmart’s new Learning Tool Interoperability technology, more students and faculty are able to gain access to CourseSmart’s low-cost eTextbooks and eResources options. Additionally, by integrating with these systems, student and faculty workflows are streamlined with single sign-on access to the world’s largest catalog of digital course materials.
  • CourseSmart® Launches Integration for the Blackboard Learn Platform CourseSmart recently announced the new Blackboard Building Block™ for the Blackboard Learn™ platform. This new platform has been designed to integrate into the technology ecosystems already in place on university campuses. The Blackboard Building Block, which is free to higher education institutions, provides educators the opportunity to seamlessly create and share homework and assignments with students. And with the new single sign-on feature, students can log into Blackboard and get access to their CourseSmart materials without needing to remember a second set of credentials for CourseSmart.com access.
  • CourseSmart® Integrates With Desire2Learn® Learning Management System CourseSmart most recently announced it is partnering with Desire2Learn, a provider of teaching and learning platforms, to offer end-to-end integration programs which provide students and faculty one-stop access to their digital course materials. For instructors, utilizing the CourseSmart/Desire2Learn integration means accessing CourseSmart materials quickly and easily through the Desire2Learn platform using one set of credentials. Additionally, the integration allows for the use of CourseSmart’s eTextbook services, such as copying and pasting, annotating, sharing, and printing, all within the Desire2Learn platform.

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CourseSmart® and Campus Technology to Host Panel on Digital Course Materials Programs within Higher Education Institutions

November 8th, 2011 by CourseSmart

CourseSmart®, the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and digital course materials, and Campus Technology, a leading higher education technology publication, today announced details around their upcoming webinar, Making the Move to a Digital Campus: Best Practices and Pitfalls from the Front Lines, which will be held on November 10, 2011.

During the free, one-hour webinar, representatives from three institutions will share their unique experiences of adopting digital course materials on their campus, challenges encountered while integrating the technology and advice to colleges and universities considering a similar digital solution. Presenters include:

  • Dennis A. Trinkle, Ph.D., provost and chief academic officer at Harrison College

Moderated by Linda Briggs, contributing editor at Campus Technology, the panel will tackle key issues including faculty and student resistance to eTextbook programs as well as highlight the benefits each institution has experienced since adopting their digital course materials solution. Additional discussion includes how to:

  • Reduce costs up to 60% over traditional textbook and content delivery methods
  • Provide anytime, anywhere access to materials through any web-enabled mobile device
  • Meet adoption timeliness and transparency standards in course materials selection as stipulated in the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA)
  • Achieve greater ROI on existing campus platform investments
  • Provide faculty and students with instant and seamless access to course materials
  • Ensure the latest accessibility standard for students and faculty with disabilities

The webinar will be held Thursday, November 10, 2011, at 11 AM PT / 2 PM ET. To register for this free webinar, please visit http://ow.ly/7lhmM. And, don’t forget you can join the conversation on Twitter by following @CourseSmart_ and #edtechchat.

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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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