June 1, 2012
It may be the hottest thing since Christian Grey hit the Kindle. And it could go a long way to reduce the load in students' backpacks, let alone save a few trees. ISU is one of 50 universities in the nation to pilot an eText program for fall semester, in a program sponsored by Internet2 and EDUCAUSE. ITS is funding the program, which began at Indiana University three years ago and is now being piloted by the University of California, Berkeley; Cornell University; University of Minnesota; University of Virginia; and the University of Wisconsin.
Every student taking a course in this pilot will receive an e-reader at no cost. The university paid a participation fee to cover the cost to students. The e-reader, Courseload, is integrated with Iowa State's Blackboard learning management system. The program is based on HTML5 and works on most devices with browser capability.
There's more to eTexts than reading. Students can annotate text, highlight passages and share annotations with other students and with faculty. Students may print part or all of the eTexts from the e-reader, or may obtain copies from a print-on-demand service for a small fee. Texts are being provided for the pilot schools by McGraw Hill.
"But eTexts are not just an electronic version of the text," said Jim Twetten, Director of Academic Technologies. It's the textbook material plus many additional instructor resources, class activities, and student practice materials." A lot of those things don't exist in a normal textbook," he added. "The eText reaches out and ties you in; it spiders out to all this different content which makes it much more powerful than a text alone." For example, many texts list websites as references, but the user still has to key in the url. In an eText, the url is hyperlinked to the other references. "It's way more than just an Acrobat file," Twetten emphasized.
There are advantages to piloting this program, Twetten added. "This will help us understand how eTexts impact our institution; the obvious thing is how faculty will teach and that is certainly the case, but broader than that, we will be looking at how this impacts university processes, what it means for copyright and intellectual property, and what digital rights management issues arise."