Traditionally, printed textbooks have been the bread and butter of higher education for many years. Many professors still pride themselves in their shelves lined with critical editions that serve as much as objects of affection as libraries of key resources. So, when it comes to adopting newer and potentially more desirable alternatives, there’s a certain nostalgia that’s hard to escape.
Whatever your opinion on the subject, etextbooks are fast becoming the norm on campus, bringing new changes in the way we read, the way we share information and the way we interact with our learning material. And it turns out that little’s been lost. Our digitally sophisticated students have grown up reading on screens, and most feel at ease downloading books, highlighting key ideas, taking digital notes and accessing multimedia resources alongside their reading.
In most cases, etextbooks offer affordable, portable alternatives to expensive tomes. The e-versions of Gray’s Anatomy or The Norton Anthology of English Literature no longer break the bank nor the backs of our students.
And the impact on learning? Well, it turns out there’s plenty to praise.
- Etextbooks are often more affordable
For students straddled with the costs of tuition and even higher costs of living, the economic dent of purchasing print textbooks into their already strained budgets might mean the difference between reading the assigned material and leaving it behind. Not only do etextbooks move our students towards a more level playing field when it comes to closing the gap of access between the more able and less abled readers, etextbooks provide easier access for those who might have trouble meeting the costs of print books – especially when core texts are provided without cost by their learning institution.
- Etextbooks benefit students with learning challenges and disabilities
For students with dyslexia, reading challenges or visual impairment, the demands of course reading can present a struggle. Fortunately, modern etextbooks are often equipped with text-to-speech options (TTS), like Kortext ‘Read Aloud’, that can ease the frustrations of students who experience difficulties processing written words. Kortext users can also change text font, size and colour to suit their needs, with additional options for line spacing, margin width and text justification. This support is invaluable to those with differing reading needs and poor eyesight.
- eTextbooks offer improved efficiency
Etextbooks will often integrate digital smart tools that allow students to spend more time studying and less time searching for material or rummaging for the right citations. This reduction in time spent on menial tasks means more time for higher-order learning activities. Students can access their Kortext digital bookshelf across a range of devices with learning tools like built-in bookmarks, search functions and note-taking options designed to promote more active engagement with reading.
- Digital tools make learning frometextbooks fun and adaptive
With etextbooks that accommodate multi-media and web 2.0 tools, our students are no longer limited to learning tricky material solely through the written word. A link to an interactive map of the human body, a video of a dance performance or the audio of an historical speech can make a significant difference in a student’s ability to process the core lessons from an etextbook. Plus, interactive etextbooks with text narration options make language learning more attainable. Just consider the benefits of hearing the pronunciation of Japanese when studying the characters of the text simultaneously, all through a portable, hand-held device.
- eTextbooks can promote the social aspects of learning
While reading is often a solitary activity, etextbooks make it possible to share sections of texts online with easy copy and paste options. Kortext makes it easy to collaborate with others through any number of digital channels. Students can share key content, notes and ideas through email, for instance, or post short quotations to a blog, website or VLE.
- eTextbooks can positively influence the student experience
With a range of in-built study support tools, students can learn more independently with etextbooks in a way that can positively influence confidence and motivation. Just as importantly, interactive tools might prompt students to see reading as a form of play, which itself can be a powerful motivator at any age. Using Kortext, educators can also gain insight into how students are interacting with content to monitor their study patterns and most popular reading materials, perhaps using this information to adapt course delivery, where necessary, so it is better suited to student needs.
There’s no need to let go of our nostalgia for traditional books, nor bin the beloved volumes on our real-life shelves and libraries, but etextbooks offer an invaluable resource and tools for our students and ourselves. Let’s embrace them.