The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Update on the Kindle DX Pilots

The six colleges and universities involved in the Kindle DX pilots have yet to announce the full details of the pilot but some information has been provided. Here is a round-up of what we know so far:

  • Arizona State University: Selected first year students in ASU’s Barrett Honors College two semester Human Events course will use Kindle DX devices, while a control group of students will use traditional paper textbooks. An article from ASU’s The State Press says that the course requires approximately 50 books and Ted Humphrey, professor of the course, proposed the use of the Kindle for reduced textbook costs and paper consumption. According to Humphrey, when it was announced that his course would use the Kindle, the course roster filled up very quickly. In regards to the pricing details, Kari Barlow, assistant vice president for the University Technology Office says that students will not be required to buy the Kindle but the details have not been worked out. As for the future, Barlow added, “The goal is to offer the Kindle to the whole ASU community.”
  • Case Western Reserve University: Kindle DX devices will be distributed to about 50 students enrolled in first-year chemistry, computer science, and electrical engineering courses. The student reactions to using the Kindle DX for reading textbooks will be compared to a control group using traditional textbooks. The university will also launch a project to evaluate the impact of the device on the learning experience, determine if faculty delivered the information in new ways, and determine if students approach their reading and assignments differently.
  • Pace University: According to an article from the New York Times, Pace will distribute new Kindles to about 50 students and compare them with 50 students studying from traditional textbooks, to determine if there is a difference between how the two groups learn. The provost of Pace, Geoffrey Brackett, expects that the university will split the cost of the Kindles with Amazon but it has not been determined if the students will keep the device or if they will be borrowed. In another article Brackett noted, We are excited to be participating with Amazon and other universities in this endeavor. We will be fielding discrete groups of students in different disciplines to use the Kindle this fall, working with Amazon to test the market and viability of this enterprise. It fits perfectly with our commitment to technology and pedagogy, convenience and support for our students, and important issues of sustainability. Our world-class master’s program in Publishing, known for its success in digital media, will be a key part of our team."
  • Princeton University: Students and faculty in three courses will receive the Kindle DX devices. The Princeton pilot, known as “Toward Print-Less and Paper-Less Courses: Pilot Amazon Kindle Program" will differ from the other pilots because it will be part of a sustainability initiative that focuses on reducing the amount of electronic reserve course materials that are printed by students. It is reported by Serge Goldstein, OIT director of academic services, that over 10 million pages were printed at the university last year. According to an article, the Princeton University library is working to scan material in Optical Character Recognition form so that students can search and annotate their readings on the Kindle DX. Princeton has also setup an E-reader Pilot Program website that provides more information about the initiative.
  • Reed College: Students in three or four humanities and social science classes will be given the option to use Kindles or traditional textbooks. According to a discussion list posting, all students participating in the pilot will receive the Kindle free of charge but it has not been determined if the students will be able to keep the device at the end of the term. It has also not been determined if the students will be required to pay for the course materials and how the materials will be loaded to the device. Some of the possible options for acquiring the content include: the Kindles are shipped to the university preloaded with all course materials, students download all the course materials including Reed-owned course packs and third-party journal articles from Amazon.com, or Amazon controlled materials are downloaded from Amazon.com. In an article from Oregon Business News, Marty Ringle, Chief Technology Officer at Reed commented on the reason for doing the pilot, "We see a lot of upside to this. We're doing the pilot to see if the upside is true and whether there are downsides we aren't aware of."
  • Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia: The business school plans to make the device available to a group of students in its MBA program and another group of students in its MBA for Executives program. According to Michael Koenig, Darden’s director of MBA operations, “A neutral, third-party will develop and administer survey and online research throughout the program to determine effectiveness. The Darden School will also conduct its own research. There will be much to learn in the next academic year.”

The universities still have many details to determine, with one of the major questions relating to how the content will be acquired. One answer to that question might be a Kindle DX textbook store. According to a posting on the KindleBoards blog, a KindleBoards member learned that Amazon could launch a Kindle DX textbook store by July. This information has not been confirmed by Amazon and there is no word yet on which textbooks will be available.

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