Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Textbook Distribution Study

We recently posted a story on Daytona State College reconsidering going all digital.   This is a follow up to that post.   Here is the article describing the study that Daytona State conducted that led to their decision.  The study was conducted over four semesters with 12 faculty members and more than 1,250. 

The study compared the experiences of students and faculty using four textbook distribution models: print purchase, print rental, e-text rental, and e-text rental with e-reader device.   The following are suggestions for developing a digital program on campus based on the study:

·         Offering faculty the option to teach with e-texts rather than requiring them to do so

This seemed like an obvious one.  We really don’t want to force anything upon the faculty.  Although there was a study from a few years back in the dental school area that found moving to digital in a "big bang" or all at once approach was more successful than transitioning more slowly. 

·         Ensuring that infrastructure is adequate to meet greatly increased demands

According to the study, the students had challenges accessing publisher’s content and had some initial problems with overloading on wireless network.

·         Remedying the technological skill deficits inherent in an open-access student population

This is a quote from the study, “ After teaching with an e-text, one faculty member concluded, “We need to get more students up to speed technology-wise- top spend more time explaining simple tech concepts.” Another faculty was quoted as saying s/he noticed a “huge learning curve for some students or students without much [previous] opportunity to use technology.”

·         Guaranteeing students cost savings large enough to compensate for their initial discomfort and frustration with the technology

Cost savings are a key driver for student adoption, but so is perceived relevance and value. Any initiative focused solely on cost is likely to not achieve its intended outcomes.

·         Providing resources and support for faculty adapting their instruction to fit new formats.

The study suggested digital programs should be supported at every level of the college including programs and departments.  Faculty remain a barrier to digital course materials and there is need for more professional development and consideration of what it will take to get faculty to convert.

Perhaps the real lesson here is to have a digital strategy in advance, and to look before you leap.  While digital course material technologies are maturing, there are still some barriers that prevent wholesale converstion across every discipline or every institution type.  The lessons learned by Daytona State are not surprising, but they are important for other institutions considering similar all-digital moves. 

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