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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

K-12: Pros and Cons of e-Textbooks

An article appeared in the June 9th issue of Education Week's Digital Directions. The article does an interesting review of the benefits and drawbacks of digital textbooks in the k-12 space.

Pulling a couple ideas from the article of relevance to higher ed -- the article provided some "tips" for getting digital textbooks adapted in k-12. However, with a little modification, these could provide good tips for college stores interacting with their campus administrations and faculty as well. Here is a quick attempt at a revision for our audiences:

1. Get the administrative green light. Does the administrative leadership and faculty in your institution understand the positive impact virtual textbooks can have on learning?

2. Identify an on-site advocate and expert. You need staff member at each store or elsewhere on campus to keep faculty focused and to train and support them in e-textbook integration.

3. Build a technical-support team. Faculty need classroom hardware and software support so they can focus primarily on creating and teaching academic content, rather than troubleshooting technical problems. College stores should be part of this support team by becoming familiar with the e-textbook options available to students and faculty.

4. Showcase the results of using e-textbooks. Faculty need to see how digital books can help improve instruction at a faster rate than traditional texts.

5. Share ideas and lessons learned. Are other institutions using virtual textbooks? What have they learned? Same is true at the college store level -- some stores are more successful than others at selling e-textbooks. How can we improve our sharing of best practices?

6. Solicit feedback from faculty curriculum experts. They can look beyond the bells and whistles and measure the usefulness of the e-textbooks’ interactive features. Arranging a demo with faculty technology or curriculum committees could be effective avenues to engage faculty, librarians, and IT staff in this discussion.

The article has a number of other interesting points -- addressing topics of cost, preparedness, expectations of publishers, and new entrants. Many of these issues reflect some of our own challenges. An interesting read.

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