Archive | February, 2013

Are eBooks really textbooks?

7 Feb

Textbook publishers boast that their most recent electronic products should not even be called “textbooks.”  They are  actually programmes built to supply a mixture of text, videos, and homework projects.  But delivering them is just the start.  No old-school textbook was capable of being customised for each student in the lecture room.  The books never graded the homework.

And while they contain sample examination questions, they could not administer the test themselves.  One publisher calls its items “personalized learning experiences,” another “courseware,” and one insists upon utilizing its own brand, “MindTap.” For the moment, this fresh product might be called “the object previously called the textbook.” So far publishers produce only a controlled number of titles in these born-digital formats, and the amount of professors allotting them is comparatively little.

Only about two % of textbooks sold at school bookstores are absolutely digital titles, according to an assessment of 940 bookstores run by Follett Further Education Group. But if these new categories of textbooks catch on, they raise issues about how much control publishers have over curriculum and the teaching process, as online education expands.  “It’s not a textbook, it’s a whole course,” asserts Jean Wisuri, director of distance learning at Cincinnati State Technical and Community  Varsity , describing a product called Course360, from Cengage Learning.  “It has activities built right into the textbook itself.” A professor could fundamentally depend on a Course360 title as the full curriculum in a web course, letting scholars loose in the system and having them teach themselves.  The Course360 titles connect to the university’s learning-management system, linking them right into an institution’s existing virtual lecture room.  As these “courses in a box” continue to get better though , they could shift the professors ‘ role to be more like pilots on modern commercial planes, who let the autopilot do the flying except when they must step in.

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