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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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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


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The “iPad Class” Revisited

January 25th, 2011 by CourseSmart

Last semester, we reported on the denizens of universities deciding to provide iPads to students, and even incorporate iPad usage and etextbooks into the fall semester curriculum. One class in particular, Professor Corey Angst’s Project Management course at Notre Dame University, piqued our interest. At the beginning of the fall semester, Angst proposed introducing the iPad into the classroom to collect data on how the devices impacted the student’s coursework and interactivity with the coursework and each other.


In late December, Angst released study results, and for us, the takeaways were somewhat expected. Overall, Angst found that students were more likely to find class more interesting, explore course related topics outside of class, and manage their time more effectively. Equally as important as the iPad’s functionality as an eReader was its ability to consolidate information and allow students to perform functions not available when using standard print textbooks. While Angst’s research did not include an evaluation of the iPad’s impact on student’s retention of information or their ability to learn more effectively, students were overwhelmingly in favor of continued use of iPads in the classroom. A large proportion of students who participated in the study reported it would be difficult to return the device at the end of the semester. From the study findings, it seems clear that the iPads and the use of etextbooks had a significant impact on students.


With college campuses being a hot bed of innovation reaching as far back as the creation of the first personal computer to today’s biggest social media network, Facebook, it’s not surprising that college students (and even high school students) would take to the introduction of iPads in the classroom with ease. Hopefully, the future will bring the release of more findings from Professor Angst’s “iPad Class.” We particularly look forward to seeing the devices impact on the learning process.


To read more about Professor Corey Angst’s “iPad Class”, view the “Teaching with Angst” blog.