This blog is dedicated to the topics of Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education. it is intended as an information source for the college store industry, or anyone interested in how course materials are changing. Suggestions for discussion topics or news stories are welcome.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

At EDUCAUSE '07 next week...

I will be at EDUCAUSE '07 next week, and will try to post a few blog messages from there. In addition, NACS will be hosting Innovate! Online all next week. If you missed Innovate in the summer, this event is worth attending -- if for no other reason than to get to see the Ray Kurzweil video. He's fantastic and has a message that no college store manager should miss.


Videos to Watch

Ok it is Friday, so what better to do than watch some videos. Actually, these videos are very much worth watching if you are interested in some perspectives on technology and learning. They were produced by Micahel Wesch, an assistant professor of anthropology at KSU a few months back. There is still one more to come out in the series, which should be available later this fall. The third one - A Vision of Today's Students - is particularly interesting, but I think the whole set provide a powerful message about technology and learning and society.

Michael will be a speaker for us at CAMEX this year and the LSG will be recommending to their members that they all attend his session. Michael is a junior prof at Kansas State, is about 29 years old, and if you see him present you will get a taste of what some of the next generation of faculty will be like.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLlGopyXT_g The Machine is Us/ing Us

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4CV05HyAbM Information R/evolution

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGCJ46vyR9o A Vision of Students Today

Also, check out the following video too. It is a documentary produced by some of Michael's students and is very interesting as well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ1jFaXgTnw&NR=1 Academia 2.0

Grab some popcorn, a colleague, and enjoy the shows!


Thursday, October 11, 2007

E-lectures as digital course materials

Has anyone noticed lately some of the buzz around e-lectures? In the past couple months I have heard about e-lecture initiatives at Case Western, Air Force Academy, Providence College, and the University of Albama. In each case the faculty members are converting their regular lectures to a digital format -- typically with audio and copies of slides, and sometimes with video too. These e-lectures are then provided to students in advance of class. Class time is then used for doing other things -- like having discussion about or beyond content in the lecture, working through problem sets, engaging in team and project work, or other forms of more tactile, experiential learning. This has been around for a while, you say? Why should I care, you say? Well, in some cases they are viewed by faculty to be a substitute to traditional course materials. In examples like the Air Force Academy, they are working with publishers like Pearson to deliver the traditional course materials in digital form too, and linked to the e-lecture elements.

But this trend is also interesting because of some of the growing empirical evidence that goes with it -- evidence that suggests:
  • E-lectures result in higher enrollment, student satisfaction, and student retention (a seemingly magically elusive high-target goal of many stakeholders)
  • E-lectures result in better student performance on learning outcomes within class and in the subsequent classes on which that class builds

If the evidence eventually shows that this format can reduce the cost of course materials to students as well, then who knows what will happen next. One thing for sure, the above two bullet points and the evidence that backs them is likely to gain increased attention by more institutions. It may be a catalyst or enabling factor that gets more faculty moving to digital formats. That will in turn enable more use of digital content in the learning environment and move us one step further away from traditional print textbooks as the preferred method for delivering course content.

The question for stores, is what is our value proposition in this emerging educational model? What new or revised products or services can stores provide to support faculty initiatives in this area?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Your questions...

I am not sure who (if anyone) has discovered this blog yet. Do you have questions I can answer? What types of news stories are you interested in? Are you using digital content currently in your store? If so, how? What other things would you like to try?

Friday, October 5, 2007

More News on the SONY Reader...

Well -- two posts in one day. It must be Friday. :)

I just came across an interesting article about a growing partnership between SONY and Borders for selling ebooks. One aspect of this partnership will be a co-branded ebooks download store -- which might (hopefully) resolve some of the usability issues with Connect. The two also plan to jointly lobby publishers to provide more content for the reader.

Several publishers have recently agreed to provide more ebooks for the device -- including Pearson Education. I am not yet convinced that the device is ready for textbooks, but it is a notable experiment. It should also be a signal to college stores that publishers are interested in new channels. If we can define what the digital channels might look like that include the college store, we increase our chance of avoiding disintermediation.

As a side note -- SONY yesterday posted a position opening for the Director, International Digital Sales and Marketing, out of the Global Digital Business Group. It was not clear from the position posting as to whether this is a new job position, or one that has recently been vacated. We will watch to see who takes the position, however, as we continue to monitor the environment and seek out new potential partnership opportunities for stores.

New Sony Reader

The new SONY reader is out. Not played with a SONY reader yet? You might consider it. I got one of the older models about a month ago using credit card points. At first I thought it would just a be a cool gadget to show when I talk to different groups about e-readers and their technology. However, once you get over some of the awkward characteristics of the reader, I find that it is actually quite nice. I may not go back to print books for reading again -- unless I can't find the book I want in an e-format.

The new SONY reader will be much like the last, with some improvements -- such as double the memory space. It also boasts the latest in e-ink technology -- displaying 8 shades of gray rather than 4. (It is rumored that Amazon's e-reader to be released next month is still using the 4-shade e-ink display.) The latest SONY reader also is reported to be somewhat brighter and able to display content at a faster rate.

As I noted, I have found the e-reader pretty handy and easy to use, once you get use to it's quirks. It would not be well-suited for textbooks or reference resources, but works great for leisure reading while on the plane, in the airport, or outback on the hammock on weekends. With nearly a half-dozen e-readers now or soon to be on the market in the US and Europe, e-readers may begin to turn the tide on slow e-book sales. The technology still has some ground to cover yet, however. My one real complaint about the SONY reader at this stage? It is SONY's online store -- Connect. The site was more difficult to navigate and less user friendly than the device itself -- an nearly unforgiveable error in today's world of web transactions.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Requesting your Use Cases...

A number of the digital content projects NACS is involved with on behalf of college stores have reached a stage where we require greater input and involvement from stores. To streamline the process of gathering input, we will be adopting a format for developing "use cases" that can be employed with several different groups. In this instance, use cases are stories about how people successfully and/or unsuccessfully complete transactions for digital content (e-textbooks, digital course materials, print-on-demand, etc.) through college stores. We are looking for college store volunteers willing to help us develop a set of use cases (individually and/or collaboratively) that we can use in response to requests from projects like the CSU Digital Marketplace, OhioLink digital textbook prototype, IMS' e-Textbook taskforce, in addition to others. Contribution of use cases is a critical process to facilitate college store input into future digital initiatives.

Use cases are a common modeling technique in systems development in which we identify stories or scenarios that capture the sequence of events that occur when an individual (actor) attempts to complete a process (in this case, a digital transaction through a college store). A use case answers a question, for example, "How do I (as a student) purchase digital resources for my biology class through the college store?" There are a number of scenarios by which this could happen. The use case breaks this down into the multiple possible scenarios and eventually into individual actions or events, along with the interactions required to achieve the goal. For example, one use case might describe the process by which students purchase content via "hang tags" with access codes. Another use case might describe a similar scenario where access codes are generated at the point of sale, either at the in-store register or online. Yet another use case might describe how students could purchase content using in-store print-on-demand technology. Other possible use cases might describe scenarios by which college stores could broker transactions for content provided through campus course management systems (e.g., Blackboard, WebCT, Sakai, Desire2Learn, Angel, etc.)

This is an opportunity for college stores to participate in defining and designing how we would like to see the transactions take place within our stores for digital content. We need individuals with store-level expertise and ideas about how college stores might be involved with such transactions to assist with developing these use cases. Most use cases are only a couple pages in length and at this stage they do not need to be completely detailed. The outcomes from this process will be used to help communicate to other stakeholder groups how college stores see themselves being involved in future digital content transactions. If you are willing to help develop the use case scenarios, even just one, please send your ideas to Mark Nelson, NACS' Digital Content Strategist (mnelson@nacs.org). Questions about developing the scenarios, or ideas you have for a scenario (even if you do not have time for scenario development), are also very welcome.