Welcome to The CITE -- a blog on Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education, created by Mark Nelson and now part of the Publications Department of the National Association of College Stores. CITE is a pun with multiple meanings - referring to cite as in citation, something people reference; site as in location, website, or place people go to; and sight as in foresight or looking ahead to what is coming. Comments, discussion, feedback and ideas are welcome.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Interactivity Takes Place of Reading

While electronic devices may be distracting in the classroom, long readings in dull textbooks can be like a sleeping pill for many students. The online learning platform zyBooks is trying to change that.

The website replaces text with learning activities such as questions and animation. Instructors at nearly 250 universities are using the platform instead of traditional textbooks to help students engage with the material, according to a report in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I say an animation is worth 5,000,” Frank Vahid, computer science and engineering professor at the University of California, Riverside, and co-founder of zyBooks, told UCR Magazine last spring. “So we don’t have to write as much because we can replace a whole page of text with an animation or with learning questions.”

Platform creators also took a look at ways to improve homework. zyBooks integrates assignments into the platform, which are personalized to students’ ability levels. It also allows a way for instructors to track progress.

Students can subscribe to the service for $40-$60 per class, with discounts available for subscription renewals and extensions. The company offers special pricing for high schools and large numbers of multiterm subscriptions.

A two-year study of nearly 2,000 students done by Zyante Inc., the company founded by Vahid and Smita Bakshi, a former UC Davis engineering professor, found that those using zyBooks averaged a quarter-grade higher than those using traditional content. In addition, a controlled group of 136 students showed they spent twice as much time using the interactive zyBooks material when compared with reading electronic content.

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