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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lessoned learned from Northwest Missouri State University’s e-textbook pilot

An article from The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses some lessons learned from Northwest Missouri State University’s e-textbook pilot program which tested e-textbooks downloaded to Sony e-readers and laptops. The lessons learned and a summary of each include:
  • Judge e-books by their covers – The various device options and software used to display e-books should be considered because the ability to highlight and easily flip pages affects user satisfaction.
  • Learning curves ahead – Students need time to adjust their reading and note taking to digital reading.
  • Professors are eager students – Professors were eager to participate in the pilots. The university hoped to have five or six professors but instead had 54 volunteers.
  • Long live batteries – Battery life was an issue for some students who forgot to charge their laptops or had several classes in a row and the battery did not last.
  • Subjects are not equally e-friendly – Some subjects display better in digital format than others. Science and medical books are full of illustrations and do not display well on black and white e-reader devices.
  • Environmental impact matters – Students reported that they would choose e-books over printed books because of environmental concerns. Administrators were surprised at the degree to which these concerns affected students’ opinions.

The university reports that they are continuing to conduct several experiments with different types of e-books and all four major textbook publishers are interested in participating in the university’s experiments. The university’s president, Dean Hubbard noted that campus adoption is “going to come fast” once user-friendly books and readers are introduced.

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