Jan. 12, 2009
Northwest expands e-text pilot program
President Dean L. Hubbard used a portion of his trimester-opening speech to faculty and staff last week to address an expanded University pilot program that is replacing traditional textbooks with e-texts for a growing number of Northwest students.
Hubbard noted that interest in e-texts among higher education professionals is "growing at an unbelievable rate," and reports about the Northwest pilot program have recently appeared in the state and national news media, including a front-page article in the Sunday, Jan. 11, edition of the "Kansas City Star" ( STAR ) and online stories posted by the "Chronicle of Higher Education" ( WIRED CAMPUS ) and "Inside Higher Education" ( INSIDE HIGHER ED ).
About a dozen academic departments are participating in the pilot, which began last fall, when about 250 students used e-texts in four separate courses. This trimester, the program has been expanded to include about 500 students, plus another 3,000 who have the option of using either an e-text or traditional textbook if they are enrolled in a course using a text published by McGraw-Hill, a major producer of traditional and electronic learning materials.
M ost pilot participants are accessing e-texts via laptop computers that are provided to all full-time Northwest students. A smaller group will be using an upgraded version of the Sony eReader, an earlier model of which was part of the fall 2008 e-text trial.
Feedback from last year, Hubbard said, indicates that laptops, at least for now, provide a better platform for taking advantage of features like graphics, faculty-added material, quizzes and interactive learning exercises, though the slim, pocket-sized eReader is an excellent device "for simply reading a book from front to back."
"We seem to be the unique institution in the nation to have this kind of pilot," said Hubbard, who added that Northwest is especially well positioned to adopt e-texts because of its longstanding textbook rental program and its commitment to providing laptop computers to full-time students.
"We have always, going back to 1905, been involved as an institution in making sure that our students have a textbook," Hubbard said, citing survey data showing that at colleges and universities where undergraduates purchase books as many as 40 percent take courses without acquiring a text.
"Because of our history of guaranteeing that students have that resource, and because we give every full-time student a notebook computer, that makes us unique," Hubbard said. "Apparently no other institution in the country that the major publishers have been able to identify can match us on that."
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