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April 2, 2009
A major university e-textbook research trial currently being conducted by Northwest and publisher McGraw-Hill is continuing to draw national media coverage.
Recent news stories about the project, which is testing the potential of replacing printed textbooks with lower-cost interactive, electronic versions have been broadcast, printed or posted on the Web by such outlets as NPR's "Morning Edition," the Associated Press, "The Chronicle of Higher Education," "Inside Higher Education," "The Christian Science Monitor," "The Kansas City Star," CNN Money.com and Yahoo Finance.
The preliminary phase of this study ended this past December and involved four classes and approximately 200 students. This second phase involves 10 departments and more than 500 students. Initial results are expected by mid-April.
"As we look ahead to the University's ever-growing operational costs, especially in today's challenging economic environment, we see e-books as a proactive solution to address the considerable expense associated with higher education," said Dr. Dean L. Hubbard, Northwest's president. E-books typically cost about half as much as traditional printed textbooks.
In the second phase of the pilot program, the students download the McGraw-Hill e-books using VitalSource Bookshelf® a software application for reading, managing and interacting with digital content.
"We will be collecting data and evaluating responses from our students and faculty to determine both their satisfaction with the e-book format and the effectiveness of e-books as teaching and learning tools," Hubbard said. "In addition, McGraw-Hill is making digital access codes available to up to 3,000 students who are taking courses based on a McGraw-Hill textbook. Those students have the choice of either using a traditional book or downloading the electronic material."
Ed Stanford, president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education, said McGraw-Hill chose to partner with Northwest because of the university's long and successful history of providing its students with the latest educational technology.
"We are proud to have the opportunity to deliver our multi-functional, interactive e-books at Northwest across academic disciplines," Stanford said. "Our latest generation of e-books truly engages students, offering tools that allow them to highlight, search much more quickly than print books allow, share notes with classmates, create personal study guides, print sections, and much more."
"Northwest is uniquely well-positioned for this kind of major study," Stanford said. "The university has perfected a technology-driven learning delivery system that precisely lends itself to an efficient shift to e-books. We eagerly await the second-phase results of this study -- the first of its kind for McGraw-Hill -- and anticipate providing Northwest professors and students with the fully customizable digital content they want."
Northwest has provided printed textbooks to students through a rental program since the school was established in 1905. In 1987, Northwest became the first public university to implement an electronic campus and currently provides fully loaded notebook computers to all full-time students.
Hubbard said incorporating textbook rental and technology fees into the overall cost of attending Northwest has helped keep expenses down for families while providing students and faculty with the learning tools needed for academic success.
McGraw-Hill's Stanford added, "This is a great example of how McGraw-Hill is empowering administrators and educators to deliver the best educational solutions and learning experiences in the classroom. Digital learning tools delivered on high-speed Internet -- with the ability to collect formative assessment data -- will become increasingly integral to higher education nationwide, and we are very excited about working with Northwest to identify the best learning environments for its students and faculty."
Hubbard said that if Northwest should decide to move forward with an electronic-book-only environment, the substitution of electronic learning materials for printed books could begin as early as fall 2009. Adoption would likely begin with a selected group of courses or disciplines, and additional academic programs would be added until most printed content is replaced by e-books.