Friday, June 11, 2010

E-textbooks in Higher Education

Steve Kolowich, writer for Inside Higher Ed, reported this week on the use of e-textbooks in higher education. Surveying several for-profit and not-for-profit institutions, he cited the following numbers:
  • For-profit colleges and universities: 75%–90% of courses use an e-textbook
  • Not-for-profit online colleges and universities: 9% say e-textbooks are widely used, and 50% say e-textbooks are rarely used
  • Not-for-profit traditional colleges and universities: 5% say e-textbooks are a priority in the short-term.

At the American Public University System (APUS), 300 of 400 fully online courses assign e-textbooks as the default text, and although they allow the option of buying a traditional text, 90% of students choose the e-textbook. Students have financial incentive, though, to select the e-textbook option; the university bundles the cost of e-textbooks—but not traditional textbooks—in students’ tuition cost. An APUS internal survey found that 42% of students who used the e-textbook said they strongly preferred print texts.

Why is e-textbook adoption more common by for-profit institutions that by not-for-profits? One reason could be that, in general, for-profit institutions of higher learning make it a priority to keep course curricula and materials consistent across all campuses. Instructional designers build the course, and all instructors of that course on all campuses teach with the same materials; at traditional colleges, a professor’s independence in selecting the text and designing the course is “sacred,” said John Bourne of the Sloan Consortium, quoted by Kolowich.

Another reason that for-profits choose e-textbooks could be economic in nature. According to David Bickford, vice president of academic affairs at the University of Phoenix, the wide adoption of e-textbooks wins the school a huge discount from publishers. Additionally, e-textbooks provided by the school through tuition costs are a convenience to students who don’t have to shop online for the best price on a text and wait for it to be delivered.

Kolowich raises an important question: “Switching to e-textbooks seems to be a prudent financial and logistical move. But is it a good educational one?”

LabSim has many users at both for-profit and not-for-profit institutions. Have you used E-textbooks in any of your classes? What do you prefer—traditional texts or E-texts?

Emily Howard, TestOut

No comments:

Post a Comment