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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?

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