Thousands of Students Rallied in Sacramento for Reducing Costs of Higher Education

Recent news has taken place in the realm of free online textbooks! On March 5th, several thousands of students took to marching for a mile long rally from South Side Park to the Capital Building in Sacramento, CA all to promote lowering the costs of higher education. The rally could definitely be seen as a success in helping bring awareness to the subject of increasing tuition costs and the harsh reality that many people living in America are in a serious financial mess from tens of thousands of dollars in student loan bills.

Van Jones, founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, spoke at the rally and put the thoughts of many into a terse and accurate consensus of the current state of education here in California and through out the academic corridors of America. As reported by CSUN’s Daily Sundial, Jones said to students “You are not asking for charity. You are just asking for the same opportunity that my generation had. We’re not talking about charity, we’re talking about a return on investment,” he said. The last part “return on investment” really stuck with me as a simple window into the minds of what students are truly looking for when they go to a university, and it’s obvious why when the aforementioned reality of the situation is taken into consideration. Students are losing hope that higher education can solve some of their problems, especially when the “receipt” just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

The rally was blasted onto social media websites like Twitter, helping to spread the word online. There are several videos of the rally on Youtube, here is one by The Daily Californian that gives a nice overview of what the rally was like:

Senator Darrell Steinberg, representing the Senate Bills 1052 and 1053 partly designed to reduce the price of textbooks for introductory/lower-level classes, also spoke at the rally in Sacramento and discussed the newly proposed bills. The fact that the support for these kinds of legislation is so strong is a testament to the current attitude towards the price of higher education in California and elsewhere and how that attitude is infiltrating its way into Congress. Rightfully so, too. After all, how much longer can students take not having access to free online textbooks when they need them most, which is right now!

An article in the Sacramento Bee describes the legislative initiatives (1052 & 1053): “One of the measures would earmark $25 million for an effort to develop texts and other materials for the 50 most widely taken lower division classes. Another would create an open source digital library. Steinberg believes the state, working with publishers and academics, could provide texts for free online or $20 for a printed copy.”

Hopefully with new pieces of legislation like the ones proposed by Steinberg along with fellow Senator Elaine Alquist, and much greater student support for the ideas purported by such legislation and in general across campuses, the overall price of education will go down. Especially the price of textbooks.


Students Are Using Facebook To Buy And Sell Textbooks

It makes perfect sense. Textbook exchanges between groups of students have been around as long as colleges have been around. All students need to do is to create a direct “marketplace” to buy and sell their textbooks directly between each other and cut out the middle-man, the middle man being the campus book stores in this case. More often than not, students directly buying and selling with each other would produce a slightly more desirable outcome than using the local bookstore or online retailers, but this is essentially an issue of scale in my opinion.

Starting a textbook exchange group requires a lot of organization and effort to get a large amount of students involved. Getting a large number of students involved in your exchange group is crucial, as you need to be able to meet the demand of matching up student A’s textbook request with student B’s textbook to purchase. You need “activity” to make the group desirable and useful for all of those involved. If the group cannot sufficiently meet the demand of the majority involved, the value of the textbook exchange group diminishes and the members will look elsewhere to meet their needs, like the local campus bookstore or a popular online retailer like Amazon Textbooks.

The great news is that Facebook takes all the “grunt” work out of starting up and organizing a massive exchange group. Think about it, the communication platform is already in place for you, as is the marketplace. Facebook IS the communication platform AND it IS the marketplace of students looking to buy and sell textbooks. So, it only makes sense to take advantage of the specific communication and marketplace tools that Facebook provides its users with, such as the ability to create and organize individual Groups, Pages, etc.

Some larger public and private Universities already have active Facebook Groups that act as extremely resourceful marketplaces, while other Universities just need the right student to come along and get the ball rolling by persuading more folks to use their online exchange groups through Facebook messages, invitations, e-mails, dorm bulletin boards, etc. A perfect example of one such student is Yohav Abraham from Binghamton University. Yohav graduated from the school in 2008 and started the Facebook group to give local students an alternative to using the campus book store or selling their textbooks online. The Facebook Group is called “BU Textbook Buying/Selling Central” and it already has over 3,000 students that are members, which is pretty impressive. What is more impressive however is the fact that the group posts an average of 50 new listings each and every day. With consistent “activity” being the key to a successful marketplace, it is safe to consider the “BU Textbook Buying/Selling Central” Facebook Group successful.

We hope to read more stories about proactive students and graduates like Yohav that decide to utilize Facebook’s member tools to launch a local online textbook marketplace and provide alternatives for students that are working with limited budgets. When using ANY online or offline textbook marketplace or exchange group to buy your required textbooks, ALWAYS refer to the exact ISBN number of the textbook you need to purchase. Sometimes people can make the mistake of purchasing the wrong edition and only realize later on when it is too late, so only buy the textbooks that match your required ISBN numbers in order to be safe. If you are selling textbooks on one of these online groups, ALWAYS clearly list the exact ISBN number(s) of the textbook(s) you intend to sell to avoid any unnecessary confusion.

For those unfamiliar with Facebook Groups, here is a short video from Facebook showing how their “Groups” feature works.

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A Creative Textbook Buyback Idea That Needs More Attention

It is quite apparent that the entire textbook publishing model is beginning to make some much-needed changes. The traditional textbook publishing model is adapting in an attempt to become more compatible with the current digital learning technologies available. This is truly a major “revolution” of sorts, and thus we can expect these adaptations to gradually appear more mainstream in schools and on University campuses around the world.

The problem that many are not only forecasting, but also currently witnessing unfold, is that these publishing model adaptations are simply taking too long to implement at the top tiers of the industry, and therefore the potential benefits for students are delayed or in some cases these adaptations are now actually diverting the potential benefits BACK to the textbook publishers, rather than directly benefiting the students. How is exactly could the latter be happening, you ask? Easy, the textbook companies are using new technologies to “bloat” out their textbook bundles with often completely unnecessary supplementary digital material “package upgrades” and so on. While many student, citizen, and government-backed organizations fight for free and cheaper access to learning materials, students are still currently struggling and are looking for processes to implement that will better their overall financial situations when it comes to buying and selling textbooks.

One such process for cutting textbook costs has launched at Washington State University, and could become EXTREMELY powerful if done correctly, in my opinion. The best part about this unique textbook buyback strategy is that it allows students to show their Universities that they are taking a firm stand against outrageous textbook prices as a collective and cohesive group. It allows students to let their instructors know that they are indeed suffering due to “poor” faculty decisions regarding required textbooks for their selected courses, in a professional and polite manner. The strategy is so simple that it carries a “bonus effect” with it as well. It can be easily replicated across all Universities throughout the globe and become a VIRAL movement if enough students feel the need to get involved. Something tells me the majority of college students would GLADLY participate in this strategy.

So what is this amazingly genius and simple buyback strategy all about? Basically, The Associated Students of Washington State University (the undergraduate student government at the University) got together with the intended goal of reaching out to their University faculty and encouraging them to order popular, widely-used textbooks and order them as early as possible. The primary intended consequence of this student “direct action” is that it would enable Washington State students to recieve more money back when they go to sell their textbooks at the end of each semester. To accomplish their communication goals for this process, the student organization produced an email “…that allows students to merely fill in the name of their professors and their own names. Students who email their professors about the ASWSU Textbook Buyback Campaign will be entered into a drawing to win money for spring semester textbooks.” Another important section of the e-mail “…encourages professors to not only submit orders for more widely used textbooks, but also to submit their orders early.”

So, by encouraging professors to use the most popular and common textbooks in their field, the hope is that students would see less requirements for custom editions, textbook package upgrades, textbook package bundles, bonus and supplemental materials, etc. If students do not have to purchase extremely unique or custom and often inevitably unnecessary textbook additions, chances are the campus bookstore will buy their textbooks back at the end of each semester for a fair price, as the consistent “need” for the popular and common textbook should remain roughly the same for some time. The cool thing regarding this creative textbook buyback strategy is that in a small but potentially impactful way, students are actually controlling an aspect of their local textbook market. Imagine the power students could have if they started implementing this strategy quickly on a national, and eventually a Global level.

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ASWSU Website:


Most Students Prefer Selling Their Textbooks Online, But Some Don’t

With more and more textbook companies popping up to serve the “online” marketplace, the competition is getting to be pretty darn fierce. One of the major benefits of this intense competition is the fact that it tends to force consumer prices down. This is great news for cash-strapped students. Low textbook prices makes a lot of campuses a whole “brighter”, to say the least. With all these textbook retailers out there to choose from now, you would think most students are heading online to see where they can get the best deal, and their internet search here is often two-fold. Students search out the best websites and companies to purchase or rent new or used textbooks, etextbooks, online textbooks, kindle textbooks, etc, and they also search out the online resources that will give them the most money when they need to sell their textbooks at the end of the semester. Sometimes the best resources for buying and selling textbooks may be the exact same website, others often find that some companies are better for selling textbooks, while some seem to work out better for purchasing textbooks. The good news is that there are enough options out there to really explore and hopefully figure out some reliable resources after a semester or two of heavy online experimentation.

An article I recently read entitled: “How to get more bang for your buck”, written by Melissa Brown for the University of Alabama’s Crimson White publication, mentioned a few of the “tried and true” online resources for both saving the most money AND getting the most money back when buying and selling your textbooks. Melissa discussed Chegg and Amazon Textbooks, and she brought up a very good point that many students may not consider regarding these textbook resources, and an important point that I feel is not addressed enough on this website AND within the halls of academia: The secret is that these textbook companies will often give you a TON more money in “store credit” than they would give you in cash for your textbooks. So the key here is to use the exact same company to buy and sell your textbooks when possible in an effort maximize this “bonus” store-credit reward. Obviously, sometimes this will not work out for whatever reason, but I’d recommend trying it out whenever you notice a convenient opportunity to do so. Also, another cool little tidbit regarding Chegg is that you can receive your money from them in the form of a PayPal deposit, which may be convenient to many students that actively use PayPal’s online merchant services for their educational purchases.

If it hasn’t already been mentioned enough, pointed out right within the article is a quote from the BigWords CEO discussing that these textbook companies are actively competing to serve students, as students have something potentially very valuable to these textbook companies: lots and lots of textbooks worth lots and lots of money. His website offers many textbook buyback bonus rewards for students that choose to go through certain vendors like eCampus. These companies pay the BigWords website additional money, and these payments are then distributed as bonuses to students for using that particular textbook vendor selected through the BigWords website. These textbook coupons offered by the textbook publishers are extra attempts at increasing brand loyalty, and may not amount to more than a few extra dollars for each textbook sold. However, if students use the same company and coupons over several semesters, the overall savings will surely become quite noticeable.

Another interesting viewpoint that this article addressed was the thoughts of a student that simply preferred to do his textbook buying and selling locally, rather than search the deep seas of the internet. This student’s thoughts brought up a lot of different questions, scenarios, and viewpoints in my head. I do not believe that the views this man expresses reflect the majority of college student’s feelings and actions worldwide, but after reading his responses I really began to wonder just how many college students really do prefer to use their local campus bookstores to buy and sell their textbooks. If I was a betting man, I would imagine there is still a solid 25%-35% of students, if not more out there, that do ALL of their textbook buying and selling at local bookstores. What percentage do YOU think would be the closest to being accurate in this scenario?

The same student mentioned in the article that if the prices for buying and selling were dramatically different between online and offline marketplaces, he might reconsider his strategy and start using online marketplaces for textbooks. In my opinion, it DOES take a bit of patience to comb through the internet and find the best deals. So, for some students, it is understandable that they would find their time to overall be more valuable than saving $10 or $20 here and there, or getting an extra $15 back for a textbook at the end of the semester, etc. For the students with the time to search and the desire to save money and fatten their wallets or purses, the increasingly-competitive online marketplaces for textbooks can provide substantial savings in the long-run.

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Are Some Tablets Better Than Others for eTextbooks?

A very common question that potential buyers of tablet/e-reader devices have is, “What’s the best tablet to use for my textbooks?” It’s a daunting question too. Ebook reading devices like the iPad and Kindle are expensive, contain different technologies, and have their own limitations on certain etextbook formats. Consequently, students and parents are apprehensive to invest into a tablet for fear of not being able to use it adequately. I was going through some of my usual RSS feeds that I read and came across this wonderful article from CNET, written by Marguerite Reardon, which is a response to the indecisiveness that students and parents feel when considering the purchase of a tablet. It’s a very informative read for anyone who has even slightly toyed around with the idea of using an iPad, or a Nook, for school. The author gives a broad and practical introduction to the current state of partnering etextbook and tablet technology. The article also answers questions about ebook format compatibility between tablets and e-readers (meaning how open, or restricted, the availability of certain textbook titles are between devices), magazine subscriptions for tablets, and 3G technology for browsing and downloading content/school resources from the internet.

In my opinion, the iPad is going to be one of, if not the most widely used tablet device for etextbooks and related educative solutions. Simply because of 3 reasons: the current market share that the iPad has in terms of schools acquiring them for their students; Apple’s own App marketplace for learning applications; and iTunes U’s free course material offerings. However, the often mentioned perk of the Kindle is it’s display, which makes reading text significantly more convenient than a normal computer screen since it replicates the look and feel of paper. Ultimately, students will form a general consensus over time.

With that said, deciding on a tablet device at this moment in time is still a tough decision for most, myself included, since their are different features and capabilities amongst the top competitors. That’s why I wanted to link to this CNET article so that it helps anxious holiday tablet shoppers be happy with their purchase, no matter which device they choose.

Read the CNET article here:

What do you think about reading etextbooks on tablets? It’d be great to hear real world opinions from different people with different e-reading devices!

HTC Desire, Kindle, and iPad lineup(edvvc)

The Science Techbook from Discovery Education Makes Debut!

Discovery Education (a division of Discovery Communications) is taking a big leap forward in the realm of digital textbooks. Say hello to Discovery Education’s “SCIENCE TECHBOOK”!

This new digital textbook has a suite of AWESOME features for science students (and teachers) in elementary and middle school grade levels, according to Discovery Education’s website.

In the past, traditional science textbooks have severely lacked the ability to engage students. Science is one of the most “hands on” classes in school, but science teachers have had very limited resources from their textbook to use for furthering class study and participation. Science labs and real world activities are one aspect of learning science that students find to be fun and exciting, and that is where the Science Techbook excels compared to ANY other science textbook. Discovery Education has basically taken the entertaining and interactive scenarios found in a typical science classroom, and turned them into digital counterparts that are sure to spark curiosity from younger students.

“The Discovery Education Science Techbook has reimagined the learning process, delivering unique and interactive features updated in real-time that aren’t possible with a traditional textbook,” said Brett Felten (Director, Techbook partnerships, Discovery Education).

What are some of these features? After reading through Discovery Education’s website and press release about the new book, I’ve picked a few features that stood out to me as game changers in the digital textbook race.

Video library: Video modules are fairly common in digital textbooks; however, a full fledged video library made specifically for the textbook and its readers is rare. Discovery Education’s website explains that the video library will contain segmented video clips and full-length videos. Also, thanks to the fact that Discovery Education and the Discovery Channel are both operated under the same parent company, students will be very excited to hear that the Science Techbook offers video clips from T.V. shows like Planet Earth and Mythbusters!

Leveled reading passages: “Leveled reading” means that the passages of text accommodate readers in all supported grade levels, making it easier for students who may have difficulty reading scientific literature that is often confusing for young learners. While leveled reading is not new, for a textbook to have the ability to instantaneously adjust reading passages to fit student’s reading capabilities is definitely a worthwhile feature that many teachers would appreciate.

Interactive glossary: This is a feature that is starting to gain momentum in some digital textbooks and it comes as no surprise to me that the Science Techbook has this functionality. Basically, an interactive glossary is exactly what it sounds like. Hopefully, never again do students need to perform the arduous task of flipping their textbooks pages back and forth to find information from the glossary in the back of the book. Having an easily accessible and digital glossary will give confused students a quick way to get back on track with what their learning and provide them with multimedia content that keeps them entertained and helps further their understanding of the material.

Virtual labs: Interactive flash-based modules that pertain to the concepts in the textbook. Flash-based activities are not exactly new for students, but I think it will be exciting to see Discovery Education’s take on this type of content given their incorporation of external media and characters like those from the Discovery Channel.

Hands-on labs and activities: Printable PDFs detailing safe, fun in-classroom labs and activities are provided by the Science Techbook.

5-Minute Prep: An interactive breakdown of a given concept that helps students and teachers get a quick start on the material.

Additional features for teachers include an assignment builder and an assessment manager. Discovery Education is actually performing “webinars” for school administrators and instructors to watch to help familiarize them with the Science Techbook’s features.

For instructors and parents who may be curious about what kind of learning structure the Science Techbook uses, the book is based on the 5 E Learning Cycle Model; which includes the following stages: engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate. This model is based on an inquiry approach to learning, and has been used effectively in science classrooms since the early 1970’s.

Be sure to check out Discovery Education’s website for more detailed information regarding the features and capabilities of the the Science Techbook, as there are many more than just what I have covered above! Also, school administrators and teachers can find dates and topics for the webinars concerning the Science Techbook at Discovery Education’s website.

Visit Discovery Education’s Science Techbook website here:

Source (press release):


CourseSmart Helps Colleges Understand The Benefits of Using eTextbooks

I’ve discussed on here before about the HUGE need for digital learning training programs that are catered to school administrations specifically. Current trends are suggesting that students of all ages are seeing the value in using eTextbooks and other digital learning materials both on and off-campus, and slowly but surely it seems that the majority of teachers and professors are really warming to the idea as well. The problem we have currently taking place within the digital learning scene is that the administration officials at the the top of the pyramid (think Chief Academic Officers, Provosts, Vice Presidents, Academic Technology Officers, etc) are not necessarily in “tune” with the benefits involved.

Some of the folks at the decision-making level are very risk-averse, and for GOOD reason too…they have a University that depends on their sound judgement and cost/benefit analysis. Some of these folks recognize that digital learning is the future, but are scared that rushing into a certain platform or digital solution might could up costing the University and possibly their jobs in the long-run, should say that digital learning platform they chose becomes too error-prone for use and too expensive to maintain, thus forcing the University to spend even more money on different solutions, etc. These are certainly complicated decisions with complicated answers, and I for one do not envy people that are forced to make extended commitments involving technology. (In my experiences with technology platforms, things tend to go wrong a lot that are completely outside of your control, even when things seem as promising as ever…but hey, I am a fairly pessimistic person in general hehe).

So, it appears that CourseSmart is taking the lead (they tend to be doing this A LOT in regards to anything related to online textbooks if you haven’t already noticed) and partnering with Campus Technology to host a webinar titled: “Making the Move to a Digital Campus: Best Practices and Pitfalls from the Front Lines”, which will be held on November 10, 2011. The awesome thing that they are doing is bringing in school administrators from around that country that have FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE  implementing digital learning solutions on a larger University-level. These people I’m sure had their own doubts and questions regarding the benefits of digital course materials, very similar to the questions and anxiety most school administrators around the globe are asking and feeling when confronting the reality of the digital learning revolution.

All in all, this is just great news for the entire digital learning movement and I’d hope and expect to see a lot more similar similar educational presentations and online webinars taking place throughout the world. Once administrators are educated, it will be time to move on to educating instructors about using digital learning solutions in their classrooms and lecture halls. The challenge will always be providing this vital technical education in a cost-effective manner. My vote is that they use online webinars, just like the webinars they are using to educate administration and faculty  discussed within this post. Just have teachers and Professors log online and go through instructions and activities that inform them about how to use the digital tools in the most effective manner. Give them access to forums and other live feedback from other teachers and professors implementing the same tools as this will create a mini-community very quickly that is truly “alive” with new digital learning information and information on implementing these digital learning solutions.

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Online Textbooks Written By Teachers

Anyone that has gone through higher education at some larger public universities has probably encountered a professor or two that has written their own textbook. The problem that most people have with this is that they believe it could present a conflict of interest, as the teacher receives compensation for every textbook sold. Therefore, many students question the true motives for requiring certain textbooks in college classrooms.

Teachers at the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota had a motive for writing their own online textbooks that involved money, but the motive was “saving money” instead of possibly “making money”. The school district paid a group of teachers around $10,000 to develop an online statistics course with the help of software provided by the CK-12 Foundation. They also spent around $5,000 to provide the courses online and to provide students with DVD copies.

“If every school district looked at doing this for all of their classes, the money saved would be just unbelievable,” one of the district’s teachers commented. Each one of the previously published traditional textbooks cost individual students more than $60 to use. School districts would also normally be required to use the same traditional textbooks over a period of 10 years, which means students towards the end of the traditional textbook’s “run” may be studying outdated material.

The benefit of coming together as an entire school district and accomplishing this type of thing is that now they don’t just have an “open” course SPECIFICALLY designed to meet their learning needs, they also have a course that can be updated and revised at any given time very easily online. No need to worry about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on textbooks that may become outdated in five years, just have your district’s teachers meet over the summer months and put together an updated section when needed.

From reading the article, it is clear that the teachers in this school district are really enjoying this online textbooks model, and they seem excited about the future. We are excited too, as this is certainly just the beginning of the digital learning revolution that is sweeping the globe.

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Exciting News Regarding Pearson Online Textbooks and Kindle e-Readers

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, we are starting to see a fair amount of established textbook companies partner with newer tech startups. I’d imagine these publishers realize digital learning is quickly becoming a classroom reality, so they are looking for partners to handle the innovative digital delivery of their academic content. Pearson makes up nearly half of the textbook marketplace, and they have no intention of slowing things down it appears. As of yesterday, Pearson textbooks has partnered with Knewton, a company that has created a truly unique adaptive learning software.

While Pearson has their own online learning environments and provides online supplemental materials, such as Pearson MyLab, these platform’s overall potential pales in comparison to what Knewton has been working on. When students read and complete assignments through Knewton’s learning software, the software learns what that specific student’s topical strengths and weaknesses are over time. This means the software will quickly realize that a student is breezing through certain assignments on certain topics and getting everything correct, so the software will no longer force the student to complete assignments on this topic. Therefore, students won’t need to waste time learning topics they already fully understand and can use their time more effectively by studying concepts they truly need help with. Knewton’s software has the opposite angle covered as well. So, if a student is clearly having issues with a certain topic or theory, the software will continue to notice this and will attempt to present the ideas in different ways, until the student clearly understands what is going on.

This partnership has huge potential, and is already being experimented with at Arizona State University, with VERY promising results reported so far. The software is helping college students complete their required remedial classes VERY quickly, and some faculty at ASU have said they will consider cutting their remedial classes to only a half-semester after seeing these types of results after applying the software to a significant student population. While Knewton’s software is already at work in a few classrooms, the real goal of this new Pearson-Knewton partnership will revolve around making the entire Pearson textbooks library compatible with Knewton’s “prediction engine”. Soon, a lot of digital textbooks will be powered with Knewton’s adaptive software and this will certainly be an exciting thing to see. Not only are these digital learning platforms more interactive and engaging than a traditional academic textbook, these types of programs also make it VERY difficult for students to cheat/copy, as individual students will be working on slightly different things based on their own previous knowledge and skillsets, etc.

My only “gripe” with the article I was reading was this: “As textbooks go more digital, prices will drop just as they did in music and best-selling novels. One of the best ways Pearson has to maintain its pricing in textbooks is to increase its added-value by integrating its material with intelligent systems like that of Knewton.”

When I read stuff like that, I cringe a bit because I believe that no matter what, using new technology should be about DECREASING costs when it comes to education. It is scary to think that these huge textbook publishers could actually use new technology to the detriment of today’s student’s…but capitalism is truly the name of the game I guess. My hope is that both the publishers and the tech companies can figure out how to maximize their ROI with pure distribution volume (as THAT is the fundamental power of online learning in my opinion), while actually DECREASING textbook costs for individual students. A guy can hope, right?

Speaking of capitalism and education…While students in lower income areas around the globe are benefiting from Kindle textbooks with the help of nonprofit organizations, MANY lower income areas are not getting access to these online learning tools due to bad distribution models in my opinion. iPad Textbooks are the newest “rage” in schools and colleges throughout the U.S., as well as things like Android Math Apps, iPhone Science Apps, etc. These educational platforms and applications are popular for a huge variety of reasons, and they are truly changing the way students learn and interact in the classroom. The problem is that these tablets, platforms, and applications are still extremely costly and mostly designed for multimedia entertainment, and yet they are being integrated into “well off” schools already. Well that sounds great, you say? Not so great, I say.

The problem, in my opinion, is that the students in the “less well off” areas are seeing this and assuming these expensive tablets are the only option out there. Tablets are essentially becoming “the next shiny object”. These tablets and digital devices are becoming a “must have” for entertainment and now educational purposes, when simple e-readers like the Kindle can often perform the same way and achieve the same results inside the classroom. I just hope this is not another case of new technology actually “harming” students in the long run. Basically, I’d rather see every student in the world receive their own Kindle, rather than see only half of the students in the world receive an iPad.

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No, Textbooks Should Not Cost $200!

In my daily browsing I came across an article on MSN by Liz Weston. In this article, she brings up some really good points about the textbook publishing model as a whole. What I found particularly interesting was her statements about textbooks STILL being fairly expensive essentially due to the secondhand/used textbook marketplace gaining in popularity. Textbook publishers are now forced to spread their costs out among more buyers, and they ensure this will inevitably happen by producing consistently “Updated” versions of their best selling textbooks. This forces many students to basically “think twice” before purchasing used textbooks, as they might be missing some updated, integral sections that they will need to reference at some point during their courses.

Weston says: “The gradual shift toward digital or e-textbooks that’s already under way could help bring costs down by eliminating printing costs — although publishers will still face the remaining, typically more expensive upfront costs of having to pay writers, editors, designers, artists, the marketing staff and so on.” I think this illustrates what is slowly happening right now in the eTextbooks marketplace in terms of the textbook companies’ uncertainty of their overall ROI, should their companies choose to start focusing on digital textbooks. Companies understood the profit model in terms of traditional textbooks, but eTextbooks are very new and “uncharted” territory…so in my opinion the major textbook publishing companies are treading VERY lightly for now.

We are starting to see the popular textbook publishers partner up with some innovative tech companies and break ground on the digital learning scene, and things are looking to pick up rapidly here in 2012.

Another semi-related article I just finished reading on Yahoo discusses the Pro’s and Con’s of online learning in general. The Pro’s are fairly obvious to most students nowadays, as chances are they have taken at least one digital learning or “distance learning” course as a part of their requirements for their major. The major benefit most students will tell you is the convenience these online courses provide. No need to get out of the house and drive to a classroom, you can just pull out your laptop and get right to work.

The Cons mentioned within the article bring up the fact that since digital learning is done independently (without a physical classroom to attend and professors to interact with, etc), it naturally requires a lot more individual rersponsibility and discipline on behalf of the student.

The Yahoo Education article states: “Based on responses from more than 2,500 colleges and universities, a study supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation stated that academic leaders cited a “need for more discipline on the part of online students as the most critical barrier.” I believe that this is something that students themselves need to address as soon as possible, because it is clear that many educators today do not believe the majority of students have the necessary discipline required to pursue online learning in a responsible manner. Students need to get instructors on board with the digital learning scene, as both students and teachers are the primary beneficiaries of the online learning revolution. Of all the groups involved in the traditional textbook publishing model (textbook publishers, Colleges, Government, Foundations, etc) teachers and students NEED to work together to bring about positive changes and rapid growth within the digital learning scene.

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Kno And 20MM Working On Web 2.0 Enhanced Open Source eTextbooks

I’m surprised that it took me a few weeks to hear about this GREAT news coming out of Sacramento, California. As we’ve discussed a few times before, Kno is an educational software company that is truly “walking the walk” in terms of getting interactive online educational material in the hands of as many teachers and students as possible. Lately, a lot of the major “traditional” textbook publishers out there seem to doing a lot of “talking” in terms of recognizing the “digital direction” ahead. These huge publishers, while acknowledging that they have plans to embark on a journey in this new “digital direction”, haven’t actually done much else to help their troubled and struggling market. Of course, this “delay in action” also reflects the larger profit-model problem within the textbook industry as a whole, and the blame should certainly not be thrown SOLELY on the textbook companies, but the entire textbook publishing model as a whole.

Many of these big name textbook companies are clearly at work figuring out their obviously evolving monetization and profitability models…BEFORE concerning themselves with the ever-increasing demand from today’s students and instructors for online interactive educational materials to essentially replace one-dimensional printed textbooks of the past. The thing is, can anyone really blame them? These publishing companies are trying to stay afloat in this terrible economy, all the while they’re trying to navigate through an outdated educational/profit business model in order to satisfy their main demographic. It surely cannot be easy, and in my opinion, it provides a solid illustration of the popular phrase “Easier said than done.”

The 20 Million Minds Foundation (20MM) is backed by some SERIOUS big name players and funding (the Hewlett and Gates Foundation just to name a few), but they needed a basic or standard online educational platform/distribution system to reach and assist their main demographic: college students. This is where Kno comes into play. So, Kno brings the technical talents and 20MM brings the funding, open content connections, and a stated goal of producing open source eTextbooks for the top 25 undergraduate courses. Needless to say, they’ve got us pretty excited to see what the future holds here at!

Kno Course Manager

This unique educational partnership has developed and distributed their first open source, Web 2.0-enhanced eTextbook of what will hopefully be AT LEAST 25 total eTextbooks for the most common and popular undergraduate courses in the United States: Collaborative Statistics, Enhanced Digital – 2nd Edition, ISBN: 9780983804901. College students would normally pay around $150 for their traditional printed General Statistics textbook, but through Kno and 20MM students will only be looking at paying around $20 for access to their online, open source, interactive, Web 2.0 enhanced content in the very near future. In fact, the Collaborative Statistics launch title is available FREE for students and instructors interested in taking a closer look at what these new, open source, web 2.0-enhanced eTextbooks. If you are going to be taking a General Statistics course, maybe you can convince your Professor to use this eTextbook at your school!

In my opinion, it will be VERY interesting to see what other forward-thinking education-based companies like Cengage Learning and Aplia have planned for the near future in terms of online interactive educational material as well, as it is unlikely they are just “waiting around”.


You Can Check Out The Collaborative Statistics eTextbook For FREE Here:


South Korea Is Digitizing Their Textbooks!

Most people are aware that South Korea is an industry-leader in modern technological advancements and implementation. South Korea has taken their innovative spirit directly to the classroom in an effort to provide reliable and convenient access to textbook materials in a digital format. SK’s Minister of Education stated that he believes digital textbooks will help provide students and teachers with an easier way to customize their curriculum, on both an individual and group level.

The real “exciting” news in this story, in my opinion, is that South Korea plans on the utilization of a national wireless platform that can be accessed in all of their schools. This platform will give students access to their learning materials basically anywhere at anytime…truly “borderless” education that is not confined by a certain classroom, building, group structure, etc. I really admire SK’s progressive attitude towards modernizing their technological and educational infrastructure, as they can clearly see where the future of education is heading and thus they are planning things out accordingly.

Here in the U.S., President Obama recently discussed the “Digital Promise”, which seeks to eventually establish the same type of digital learning convenience and opportunities that are rapidly being developed and implemented in South Korea already. The U.S. and South Korea will need to ensure that they develop and implement plenty of standard guidelines and training materials for instructors as well, because if the instructors don’t fully comprehend the power and usefullness of digital learning materials, than they may quickly go to waste. Essentially, training both teachers and students on these new developments will be a major necessity to ensure that they are used to their full potential. We all know that digital learning materials inherently have more learning/growth potential and encourage more interactivity than their printed counterparts, but none of that will matter if the teachers themselves are not 100% comfortable using this technology within their own classrooms.

Visit for more information.

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Pearson’s OpenClass Brings Innovative Technologies Together For Educators And Students

When I first read the press release by Pearson discussing their new “learning management system” – called OpenClass – I found myself both excited and doubtful at the same time. Excited because new learning technologies are needed so desperately in today’s academics, but I worried whether or not OpenClass could really be something that changed the way mainstream educators and students collaborated. After all, practicality is key for students and teachers to adapt to new technologies, and typically new technologies are overly complex to be practical for many people; or conversely, they lack what people really need. This is where OpenClass got it right in my opinion.

“OpenClass is a new kind of learning management system (LMS) delivered from the Cloud. It is easy to use and completely free.”

Firstly, the platform utilizes cloud storage, meaning that educators across the globe can share information quickly and through an ever evolving technology (the Cloud) that is here to stay. In addition, and what makes this LMS really exciting is the fact that it has been integrated seamlessly into the Google Apps for Education marketplace.

Perhaps accessing class materials may be as easy as checking your gmail! We’ll have to wait and see until more feedback about the platform is released, but the idea of a free and easy-to-use learning management system is quite intriguing.

“Now, educators and students are able to communicate and collaborate in new ways across institutions and around the globe—providing a richer, more personal and more connected learning experience. At no cost,” said Matt Leavy, CEO of Pearson eCollege.

So, how does something like OpenClass truly affect mainstream students? Greater access to additional learning materials across the world by teachers and students will surely have an impact on students in one way or another. Hopefully, giving students a richer learning environment.

“We truly believe that OpenClass is a disruptive technology for education,” said Kevin Roberts, Chief Planning and Information Officer at Abilene Christian University. “Pearson’s commitment to providing an open and free platform is monumental. The days of ‘business as usual’ in higher education are gone. OpenClass is a powerful tool to help us move forward into the connected, mobile and open world that we live in.”

I think the “mobile” aspects of OpenClass could be very interesting. Considering how many students have smart phones, OpenClass could be revolutionary if implemented correctly.

Watch this video by OpenClass for a better look…


Visit for information.



Oak Harbor School District Budget Cuts Halt New Textbooks

Oak Harbor School District in Washington is facing unfortunate stalls in replacing old, outdated textbooks. The school district, like so many others across the nation, has been experiencing widespread budget cuts due to federal and state legislation. Now the decisions made by those higher up are starting to affect students and their education. The article by the SeattlePi quoted the school district’s Human Resources Director Kurt Schonberg exclaiming the following,

“Due to federal and state budget reductions, the district has been unable to replace kindergarten through 12th grade science textbooks since 2002 and kindergarten through 12th grade social studies textbooks since 2003.”

“Textbooks and technology need to be replaced at least every eight years because they become outdated, worn out, state standards of curriculum change and old technologies don’t work with new equipment, Schonberg said.”

The dangers of teaching outdated material is very real and should not be overlooked. This is why online textbooks and other forms of digital textbooks are so advantageous compared to their traditional, hard copy counterparts; they can be accessed and updated at nearly anytime. Making learning about current events and other news in the classroom even more tangible for students.

‘”Social studies is very much a 21st century subject talking about the students being participatory in their community,” Schonberg said, adding that students need to learn social studies so that they understand how to vote.”’

Exactly. But how can students make educated, rationale decisions without up-to-date knowledge? Well, they can’t! Those responsible for federal and state educational budgets need to realize that saving money is not the same as progressing academia.



Proposal For More Textbooks On Reserve At Santa Monica College Library!

Santa Monica College students may be receiving new textbooks for their library’s reserve soon! A great article at The Corsair documents how an A.S. (Associated Students) board meeting heard a proposal by the school’s Director of Instructional Support, Marco Vivero, about the possibility of buying more textbooks to be put on reserve. It’s my guess that many students in the U.S. would be delighted to see comparable proposals at their schools.

“The average student spends about $900 per year on textbooks, which is nearly 20 percent of tuition and fees at a four-year public institution.” Said Vivero. “Moreover, textbook prices are rising at about four times the rate of inflation.”

I totally agree with Vivero’s concern for student expenses, it’s this type of mentality that many other colleges and universities are failing to put into perspective. Not everyone has the same access and necessary funds to acquire the textbooks they need for their classes, in Santa Monica and across the country.

“The library has seen an increase in student requests for textbooks, and I believe this increase parallels the increase in textbook prices,” said the SMC Dean of Library Services Mona Martin. “Some students use the library’s copy of a textbook more at the beginning of the semester, until they acquire the funds to purchase their own copy, but other students rely on the library’s copy of the textbook for the entire semester.”

Using reserve copies of textbooks from your school library is just one of many techniques students take advantage of for free textbooks. However, reserve textbooks are not always available as the article points out.

“Some instructors do not provide a reserve copy of their textbooks, and this leaves students who are unable to afford the books little access to the material.“

What options do students in the predicament described above have? Hopefully, the proposal for additional reserve textbooks at Santa Monica College is successful. Student’s are sure to appreciate the help!



iPads For Elementary School Students On The Horizon

The Encinitas Union School District (in California) is taking exciting new steps for students, with a proposal pushing for new technology in the classroom. The school district plans on introducing iPads to grade schoolers throughout the next couple months.

“The trustees said they were excited about the changes and what they will mean to students in the future.”

‘”I’m very excited to see our strategic plan in action,” Trustee Marla Strich said.’

This past week, Ocean Knoll Elementary in Encinitas already gave some of their classes access to iPads.

“There were “a lot of excited kids and teachers” at the school Tuesday as students checked out their new tools, Superintendent Tim Baird said.”

One benefit of using iPads instead of traditional textbooks is that students can always access up-to-date information/text, and no longer need to worry about outdated material in their textbooks. Additionally, grade schoolers and students of all ages are sure to appreciate the lighter load in their book bags.

“The iPads are part of a bigger push for more technology in the district that could one day soon render textbooks obsolete, Baird has said.”

Similar proposals in other school districts across the country have been popping up recently. Perhaps this means that more students and teachers are seeing the positives of these new technologies (such as iPad textbooks) and how they can help produce a more efficient, student-friendly learning environment.



Kindle Textbook Rental Now Available!

Amazon has just announced that they are expanding upon the Kindle platform with Kindle Textbook Rental. This is an exciting new turn for Amazon and students who own and utilize Kindles for academic use. Renting textbooks is something that many students have seen before; however, with the already enormous backing that Amazon has, this could be a huge opportunity for students to save some serious cash for the 2011-2012 school year.  Let’s take a look at what exactly Amazon will be offering students with their textbook rental program:

“Tens of thousands of textbooks are available for the 2011 school year from leading textbook publishers such as John Wiley & Sons, Elsevier and Taylor & Francis.”

“Students tell us that they enjoy the low prices we offer on new and used print textbooks. Now we’re excited to offer students an option to rent Kindle textbooks and only pay for the time they need—with savings up to 80% off the print list price on a 30-day rental,” said Dave Limp, vice president, Amazon Kindle.

“We’ve done a little something extra we think students will enjoy,” continued Limp. “Normally, when you sell your print textbook at the end of the semester you lose all the margin notes and highlights you made as you were studying. We’re extending our Whispersync technology so that you get to keep and access all of your notes and highlighted content in the Amazon Cloud, available anytime, anywhere – even after a rental expires. If you choose to rent again or buy at a later time, your notes will be there just as you left them, perfectly Whispersynced.”

Kindle Textbooks are touted as “Rent Once, Read Everywhere” by Amazon due to their compatibility with popular devices using free Kindle Reading Apps for PC, Mac, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Android-based devices. The slogan certainly sounds appealing to say the least.

With Amazon’s Kindle Textbook Rental, students can customize the amount of time that they would like to rent their Kindle textbooks — ranging from 30 days all the way to 360 days — which allows students to only have to pay for that specific amount of time the textbook was rented. Amazon textbooks have already had desirable price points, but with this new rental program Amazon is looking like a true haven for students seeking discount textbooks.

The textbook app developer Inkling introduced a a different approach to reading textbooks a couple months ago that involved buying only the parts/chapters of the textbook that you need. However, with Kindle Textbook Rental students will only need to pay for the amount of time they use a certain textbook, and not for a specific part of a textbook. This business model may prove to be a better and more useful choice for students, but time will tell. In my opinion, having the ability to rent an entire digital textbook for a specific amount of time would seem to be pretty helpful for anyone who needs to study for their finals but forgot their textbook at the last minute, or any other similar time sensitive situation. Of course, the savings in general Amazon hopes to offer students is enough for many to jump on the bandwagon I am sure.

You can find out more at



Students Believe Tablet Computers and Digital Textbooks Are Cool

Came across a great article by By Bertha Coombs over at “Tablets make digital textbooks cool on campus”. Inkling and McGraw Hill partnered with Abilene Christian University and provided several of their classes with iPads and iPad textbooks. This case study was a part of the University’s three year old “mobile learning initiative”.

After the project ended, the majority of students said that they would buy an iPad if the majority of their textbooks were available in this format. Almost all students said they preferred etextbooks for a variety of reasons, mainly citing convenience and the ability to share “in-text” notes and ideas with other students and instructors for instant feedback.

“Just the fact that it’s on the iPad and it’s all on there, makes me a lot more interested,” one student who participated in the initiative stated. That has to be good news to hear from teachers at the very least, as they are constantly looking for new ways to engage their students who are increasingly utilizing modern technology and rejecting traditional learning methods.

Hopefully more big textbook publishers will start participating in these case-study projects, as they clearly benefit the future of all students worldwide in the long-run.



Kno Textbook App Launches With Early Bird Program

Kno’s CEO is Osman Rashid. His name might sound familiar as he is the co-founder Chegg. Kno originally had created a dual-screen tablet, but eventually let the hardware project go in order to focus on providing digital textbooks that are affordable and online textbooks that are accessed through today’s hottest gadgets: Tablet computers!

The Kno Textbook App is receiving a lot of buzz in educational social-circles throughout the U.S. College students are already desperately seeking iPad textbooks and Android textbooks so that they can finally release themselves from the burden of lugging huge, heavy textbooks around everywhere they go.

The main highlights and features of the Kno Textbook App are:

A growing catalog of more than 70,000 textbooks at discounts averaging 30-50%
Course Manager – Quickly and efficiently organize your textbooks and materials all in one organized space
Chapter Preview – A fast method to find the educational content you wish
The ability to highlight content and create sticky notes – Extremely Helpful!
Words to Friends – Share your thoughts with your social network directly from within your etextbooks! Send your classmates relevant study notes directly through Twitter and Facebook!

The best part about the Kno Textbook App is that it is currently FREE TO DOWNLOAD! Once students download the textbook app for free, they can then purchase their online textbooks from the Kno etextbooks store. Of course, students then download textbooks directly through the Kno store platform as well. Better still, right now students can participate in the Kno Textbook App’s Early Bird Program and get a FULL REFUND on their first digital textbook purchase. All that is required is that students “Like” Kno’s Facebook Page and participate in their student-feedback program. On top of all of this, students can feel safe purchasing any number of etextbooks through Kno as they offer a 15-DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE on all purchases.

I am hoping that Kno will consider developing innovative iPad Math Apps and interactive iPad Science Apps in the future as well!



Barnes and Noble’s NOOK Simple Touch Beats The Kindle!

I was in the middle of my daily online textbooks reading. I came across an article by Rosa Golijan at, and it looks like the Barnes and Noble NOOK Simple Touch Reader beat out the Kindle in a recent Consumer Reports showdown. More competition in this sector just means more innovation and additional convenience and access to educational materials for students, so I view this as a positive thing happening all around. Both of these companies are leading the way in the development of digital educational materials and they’re always pushing forward in their support of digital textbooks, or etextbooks. We should all be excited to see what the future holds in my opinion.

It is still way too early to count out the powerhouse behind the Amazon textbooks entity that is constantly pushing out new Kindle textbook titles, as even Consumer Reports notes themselves here:

“The publication notes that future firmware updates could easily give the Kindle an opportunity to regain the top spot in ratings, but for now the pretty little Nook holds the crown in Consumer Report’s eyes.”


Source Article:


Open Textbooks Are An Ideal Solution, But Are They A Realistic Solution?

I highly recommend checking out the University System of Georgia’s webpage on open source textbooks at:

I feel that they really capture the true definition of — AND — the benefits of, open source textbooks. These online textbooks are commonly referred to as open educational resources or OER.

The gang over at released a very interesting executive summary of their summer 2010 report: “A Cover to Cover Solution: How Open Textbooks are the Path to Textbook Affordability”

They break the report’s findings into THREE crucial suggestions designed for improvement in student textbook availability and distribution.

1. Textbook affordability solutions must satisfy a wide range of student preferences.

2. Traditional cost-reducing options have limited potential because they only appeal to a subset of students.

3. Open textbooks can reduce costs for all students and have the potential for long-term sustainability.

I feel that their report finding’s reflect the all-too-common, yet all-too-ignored everyday financial struggle of college students worldwide. The solution of open textbooks makes perfect sense in an ideal world, but the profit-motive is SURE to be a factor in how well this educational-model is embraced by the masses. The masses being the textbook publishers of course, as a select few textbook companies appear to have VERY solid foundations and roots within the higher institutions of America and they tend to “run the educational material show” overseas as well. It will be an interesting next few years in the digital learning industry, that’s for sure!

What do you think about the future of open textbooks?

Source Article:

Source Article:


Inkling, McGraw Hill, Barnes and Noble OH MY!

Just had a really good article by Mercy Pilkington over at pop up on my radar discussing Inkling and all of the benefits that this start-up is going to bring students and the education industry as a whole. If you don’t already know, Inkling has combined with the powerhouse textbook publisher McGraw Hill to produce hundreds of interactive digital textbooks. The great thing about this combination is that students not only get cheaper educational material, they get to the choice to purchase only the chapters their instructors deem to be necessary. To broke college students desperately seeking free textbooks, this is the next best thing to HEAVEN. Spending money is bad, but WASTING MONEY is even worse! Even if you’re not a college student, you would probably agree with that statement.

I feel Mercy sums it up nicely at the end paragraph:

“The real winners in the digital textbook world, obviously, will be the students attempting to afford the rising costs of higher education. Through a content-specific device, students can carry all of their necessary texts with them and with Inkling, they can learn far more than paper ever allowed.”

The real interesting tidbit that can be picked up within this blog post is the note about how a McGraw Hill textbooks / Barnes and Noble merger would have ENORMOUS potential in the ever-evolving digital learning landscape. I really couldn’t agree more. Barnes and Noble has been looking for ways to reach their “fast-techno-adapter” target market for some time, so having the most popular and arguably the most successful textbook company behind the reigns could only lead to good things for both corporations, and for students and instructors at all learning levels as well!

Source Article:


Student Attitudes Towards Textbook Rental Services Very Positive

The following story by Chloé Morrison at reflects the “student attitudes” towards skyrocketing textbook prices across the world. Students are often left spending their time reading websites all day trying to compare textbook prices. A senior sums his thoughts up in the article:

UTC senior Roland Chapman has spent as much as $300 a semester on textbooks, so when given the chance to rent some books, he took it.

“I found out last semester that you can rent textbooks,” he said. “I would definitely rent one rather than buy one, mainly because some teachers really don’t use the text book and the book store gives you nothing in sell-back value.”

Here’s another really interesting tidbit:

Officials with Barnes and Noble — the company that UTC contracts with — advertise that renting textbooks can provide 50 percent savings.

So students don’t necessarily JUST have the option to buy textbooks online anymore, they can rent textbooks online…and even rent textbooks for free in some cases with the help of textbook exchange programs provided by their university!

Its nice to see all of the major companies/brands and textbook publishers out there rallying behind the emerging digital trends. This doesn’t happen quick enough in a lot of industries it seems like, good to see the education sector keeping up with the times!

Check out source article here:


Top Textbooks Publishers McGraw-Hill and Pearson Invest in Inkling to Bring High Quality Digital Textbooks to the iPad

Do you own an iPad? Well, if you ever have thought of using one for school than you are in luck. Major textbook publishers McGraw-Hill and Pearson have announced recently that they have invested in a new iPad application called Inkling. This revolutionary new product from the San Francisco based company of the same name allows students and instructors to download digital textbooks onto their iPad quickly and easily. What makes Inkling even more ground breaking is the fact that they will be able to bring high quality educational content to the iPad platform, likely before anyone else.

With backing from two of the top textbook publishers in the world, Inkling has it’s eyes set on changing the face of digital distribution. Not only will the iPad and Inkling give students easier access to their textbooks, but it will also enable them to utilize the content they are studying in ways that have not been seen before. Unique interactivity as well as unique content from textbook publishers made specifically for students using the iPad and Inkling is expected. Students can even buy just chapters instead of the whole textbook. It will be interesting to see whether Inkling will support textbook rental options for students, allowing students to download textbooks and use them for a specified amount of time, typically a semester or two, at a lower cost than buying the textbook.

Since news of McGraw-Hill and Pearson investing in the SF company, Inkling has committed itself to offering the following content:

  • The top 100 undergrad titles from McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
  • The top medical reference titles from McGraw-Hill Professional.
  • A full MBA curriculum from Pearson Education.
  • Top undergraduate titles from Pearson Education.
  • A full medical education curriculum from Wolters Kluwer Health.

The adaption of iPads by schools and universities will no doubt be a long road. As we mentioned in a previous article, some school district officials are hesitant to invest in new and exciting technologies due to costs and most likely many other unknowns. However, digital textbooks are becoming a growing trend. Inkling is leading the way along with McGraw-Hill and Pearson towards changing how students learn.

Take a look at the video below to get an idea for how Inkling works.

What do you think about using the iPad to access your textbooks digitally and being able to explore interactive supplementary materials?

Inkling’s Blog


Textbook Funding in California is Dwindling as School Districts Weigh Options for Digital Textbooks

The Sacramento Bee has a new article about California school districts cutting textbook funds. The Bee reports that textbook funding in the four county region around Sacramento has been significantly decreased. The cause of this is said to be from the general lack of educational funding in California. School districts in Sacramento have found it necessary to decrease and re-allocate funds meant for textbooks and other supplementary materials for students in order to cover other costs. It seems as though district officials in Sacramento are far more concerned with battling teacher layoffs and finding funds for other educational programs. Of course, teachers are important and it is good to hear that district officials are being proactive in terms of attempting to appropriate money to the right places. But can a better job be done?

As California school officials are dealing with the financial quandary of the state, students and educators are exclaiming their desire for higher quality learning materials and less cumbersome textbooks. The article reports that K-12 curriculum coordinator, Laura Lofgren, appreciates the “interactive” aspects of eTextbooks and the ability to incorporate “embedded video”.

Digital textbooks – while still expensive – are the future; their popularity rising and their costs will most likely decrease over time. According to the article, school officials are hesitant to adopt new e-readers and other progressive learning technologies because of their current costs.

The Bee reports, “We love the idea of using e-books to replace textbooks, but to do it on a broad scale is extremely expensive,” said Sacramento City Unified spokesman Gabe Ross.

However, if the costs associated with these new avenues of digital distribution are too high now, then school officials should work on lowering those costs today instead of tomorrow. There needs to be accurate financial projections and calculations performed now on the costs of digital textbooks vs traditional textbooks for school districts – in Sacramento and across the nation – so they can adapt to students needs and not go broke at the same time.



New Engineering Textbook Includes Video Animations, Video Tutorials, And Solution Manual For Students

Engineering students and educators have a new approach to learning. A professor from Kettering University, Dr. Bassem Ramadan, has teamed up with fellow colleagues Dr. Merle Potter and Dr. David Wiggert, both Professor Emeritus at Michigan State University (MSU) to incorporate several new aspects of learning for engineering students in their textbook Mechanics of Fluid.

The article from Kettering University reports, “We are trying to facilitate how the new generation of engineering students learns,” he said. “They may have different learning styles than we did due to new technologies. Textbooks in the past were written for instructors, not really for students, he explained. “Many of them skipped steps and presumed prior knowledge. We wrote this for the students, we want them to find this book and the accompanying multimedia package really useful in their engineering education.”

Using multimedia technologies in the classroom and online is not entirely new. Many major textbook publishers have begun distributing digital versions of their textbooks and interactive supplementary materials online, and for free. Whether Ramadan, Potter and Wiggert will be releasing the textbook online is uncertain. However, it would come as no surprise if they did considering their approach to this textbook. Hopefully, engineering students will find the Mechanics of Fluids Fourth Edition and all of its additional materials to be helpful and engage them in new and exciting ways.

The depth that multimedia interactivity has been explored and incorporated into this textbooks makes it an anomaly in the engineering textbooks market. Additionally, students typically respond well to having greater influence in the pacing of their studies. Engineering students may find the supplementary materials for this textbook to allow them to pace themselves more efficiently. Students also enjoy different types of learning mediums that allow their brain to be stimulated in ways unlike plain text. Video tutorials and animations are sure to be welcomed by engineering students young and old.

“These supplemental materials make our textbook unique in the market, and make it stand out,” he added.

Are you an engineering student or instructor? Please let us know what you think about the state of engineering textbooks in today’s academic environment in the comments section.