Skyepack is a digital publishing platform developed at Purdue University that allows faculty to assemble low-cost e-content students can access from nearly every operating system or mobile device. Purdue offered eight courses using the e-text platform in a pilot last year. That pilot is being expanded to 11 more courses for 2015-16.
The team that created Skyepack, originally known as Jetpack, wanted to develop an e-textbook that was easy for faculty to produce, while delivering more than just text and images to students. They were also trying to find a new way to save students money on their course materials.
“The project was designed to reimagine instructional material to take advantage of the technologies we have today,” Kyle Bowen, chief technology officer of Skyepack, said in a report from Campus Technology. “In particular, mobile technologies—smartphones, tablets—that allow us to access this material from everywhere.”
Any Purdue faculty member can use the platform to create their own content, but must apply to participate in the digital-textbook pilot program. Those accepted receive a stipend of several thousand dollars to create a textbook and must agree to use the book for two years and make the text available for $10-$20, depending on if the author opts to receive royalties for their work.
The e-texts are developed on a web-based interface, similar to a blogging platform. Students have unlimited access to the content and continue to receive any updates the instructor makes to the textbook after the class has been completed.
“If you drop a video into Skyepack, it re-encodes that video in such a way that it’s designed for delivery to smartphones with smaller screens or tablets with midsized screens or laptops with larger screens,” Bowen said. “It does that translation for you and it does the same thing with text and images and the interactive tools, so it makes it possible for the author to deliver content in all these different environments without having to understand the nuances of each individual environment.”