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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® 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 Partners with University of Michigan

March 8th, 2011 by CourseSmart

Students and Faculty will have Seamless Access to their Assigned Digital Course Materials through University’s Sakai-based Learning Management System

SAN MATEO, Calif., March 8, 2011 — CourseSmart, the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and digital course materials, today announced that the University of Michigan will be testing eTextbooks as a means to improving student performance by integrating eTextbooks directly into the workspace that students use to take their course. The pilot program will integrate CourseSmart’s eTextbooks with all other course materials within their existing campus Learning Management System, cTools, allowing faculty and students the ability to conveniently access everything they need for their course in one place.

Creating a single education work-flow, the Spring pilot program includes five courses/instructors and nearly 200 students who can now use cTools, the University’s Sakai-based LMS, to access their eTextbooks as well as course assignments, homework, syllabus, class calendar and instructor/peer communications.

“As a large, forward-thinking public university, we continue to look for new ways to improve the learning environment for our faculty and students,” said Susan Hollar, Curriculum Integration Coordinator for the University of Michigan Library. “We are evaluating the pilot program and will make recommendations regarding campus directions for e-textbooks. We want to help our campus make informed decisions about new technology tools.”

In addition to providing University of Michigan with eTextbooks and digital course materials, CourseSmart handled the technical integration and distribution of the program. Using an LTI standards-based integration, the university will enjoy a single sign-on process that integrates the prepopulated eTextbook bookshelf directly into the campus LMS.

“Since CourseSmart has adopted Basic LTI as a standard for operating with platforms like the Sakai LMS, integration was able to be accomplished with minimal effort on both sides,” said Chuck Severance, Clinical Associate Professor, School of Information at the University of Michigan. “We value partners who are able to take a standards-based approach which enables us to produce desired results with minimal investments.”

“CourseSmart is quickly becoming the industry leader in LTI-based systems integration as universities across the country continue to realize the significant benefits of incorporating eTextbooks into their learning management systems,” said Sean Devine, CEO of CourseSmart. “University of Michigan is a great example of the campus innovation that is taking place nationwide as students and faculty continue to demand an integrated workflow and take advantage of the savings, convenience and efficiencies of eTextbooks.”

CourseSmart offers the world’s largest catalogue of digital course materials, as well as the following eTextbook benefits:  

  • Anytime, anywhere access to materials via www.coursesmart.com or through any web-enabled mobile device or tablet, including specific Apps for the iPhone and iPad;
  • Search function for topics within a single book or across an entire eTextbook stack;
  • Highlighting and note-taking capabilities within the eTextbook, which can be easily recalled or searched;
  • Page fidelity and preservation, mirroring the print edition’s page numbers, full text, diagrams, illustrations and charts;
  • Ability to cut and paste as well as email sections, notes and highlighted text;
  • The choice to print only what one needs;
  • Savings of up to 60% for students; and
  • 80% of CourseSmart’s top selling titles have been optimized to be more accessible for students and instructors with print-related disabilities.

 For more information, visit www.coursesmart.com/instructors, and click the Institutions link.

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New iPad & iPhone App Versions 2.0 - iPad-a-Day Giveaway

August 16th, 2010 by CourseSmart

Students and faculty at universities nationwide are getting geared up to head back-to-school if they haven’t already begun the semester!  Things have been extremely busy for CourseSmart, but we are very excited to share our latest news and updates with our readers.

The new iPad & iPhone app Versions 2.0 launched last week providing a new and improved way for students and faculty to view CourseSmart eTextbooks, eResources and all other features on their iPad and iPhone – anywhere, anytime!  Both apps are available now, for free, at the Apple app store.  Go to www.coursesmart.com/go/mobile for details.

In honor of back-to-school, starting tomorrow August 17th we will be launching our iPad-a-Day giveaway.  Everyday through August 30th we will be giving away a free iPad to a lucky college student.  If you are a college student be sure to sign up for your chance to win!  Click here to enter.

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“eTextbooks for the iPad” now live!

April 11th, 2010 by CourseSmart

We are pleased to announce that CourseSmart’s “eTextbooks for the iPad” is now live on the iTunes store and available for download to the iPad. We are excited about this application because it means every college student in North America can buy one or more of their textbooks as CourseSmart eTextbooks and access them on an iPad.

The process is simple for students.

  • They begin by coming to www.coursesmart.com and searching for their assigned textbook. CourseSmart has more than 10,000 of the most widely adopted textbooks on campus, covering most of the market.
  • Once they find their assigned textbook as an eTextbook, students can purchase a subscription to the title either as an online eTextbook (your textbook in the cloud) or a downloadable one. Students with an online eTextbook subscription can access their eTextbooks on the iPad through the Safari browser even without the iPad application.
  • Once a student has an existing subscription at CourseSmart (which he or she can access on netbooks, laptops, or other computers in addition to iPhones/iPods/iPads) they can download the eTextbooks for the iPad app and access these same subscriptions on their iPad.

Now that our initial application is live, the team at CourseSmart is working hard to develop a “2.0” version of the application to launch this summer. We are excited about the opportunity to better leverage the iPad environment and talk to our customers about what they would like to see in our future applications.

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Real Student Reviews CourseSmart’s iPhone App

September 4th, 2009 by CourseSmart

This week AppJudgment released an enthusiastic review of CoureSmart’s “eTextbooks on the iPhone” app from the student point of view.

AppJudgment » Episode 11: iPhone: eTextbooks

Clarification: The iPhone App allows you to view the notes you make from CourseSmart’s online eReader. That point may be lost in AppJudgment’s review of the notes feature.

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Update: eTextbook Pages Load 25% Faster on the iPhone!

September 2nd, 2009 by CourseSmart

What? CourseSmart’s “eTextbooks for the iPhone” will now load book pages upto 25% faster.

How? We eliminated extra info sent with page image. This reduces the amount of data transmitted over the internet.

When? Right now! You do NOT need to update your app.

Why? You spoke and we listened. We prioritized speed and stability over new features in August.

Where? Any iPhone or iPod Touch with an internet connection, active CourseSmart eTextbook subscriptions and the “eTextbook for the iPhone” app installed.

Read the rest of this entry …

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Design Discussion: Zoom-in and Next Page

August 14th, 2009 by CourseSmart

CourseSmart uses image files to display true digital equivalents of the textbook pages. As you will learn, this has a big impact on the “eTextbooks for the iPhone” application.

Using the Swipe Gesture to Scroll and Pan the Page

In many places on the  iPhone, a swipe gesture is used for next/previous page.  But when you view a “resized” image file, swiping “pans” left-to-right or “scrolls” top-to-bottom.

The app automatically zooms the image file to fit the screen width. This improves legibility immensely. That’s why you can’t swipe to get to the next page.

What’s the Best Way to Zoom-in?

Read the rest of this entry …

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Thanks for the Customer Reviews!

August 14th, 2009 by CourseSmart

The initial response to CourseSmart’s “eTextbooks for the iPhone” app has been amazing. Many thanks to everyone that downloaded and reviewed the app in the App Store.

We are using the App Store reviews to prioritize enhancement for app updates. While several of these suggestions are already in the works, we need more reviews to make this the best iPhone app possible.

In addition to suggestions, the reviews included several questions and concerns about our commitment to preserving “true digital equivalency”:

  • Why didn’t CourseSmart use reflowable text like other eReaders and news applications?
  • Why is “true digital equivalency” so important?

Read the rest of this entry …

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