Thursday, March 1, 2012

Follett's prediction of digital learning

Follett Higher Education group recently published a white paper titled “Are Textbooks Dead?” that assesses the evolution of course materials and the future of digital learning.   This is a must read for everyone involved in the course materials business.  Here are some quotes and highlights of the paper that are consistent with the messages of this blog for the past few years.

As the campus appetite for digital materials increases, it stands to reason that publishers and providers will concentrate first on evolving a select group of textbooks because they are most widely used and produce the most revenue.”
i.e., large adoptions will move to digital first because of economies of scale and effect. 

Follett predicts that there will be two paths for digital: Native Digital and Enhanced Print.  We have traditionally referred to Native Digital as "born digital," but agree that Follett's labeling in this report is more consistent with the more common terminology that has evolved.  Enhanced Print takes the "PDF-equivalent" digital and "enhances" it with multimedia or other elements.  Inkling textbooks might be an example in this category.  From there, Follett has some interesting discussion within the report.  For example, their comparison of the two paths:
Native Digital
DISCIPLINES: Problem-based with linear learning
BENEFITS: Better student performance; Engagement and retention; Adaptive learning;

Enhance Print
DISCIPLINES: Theory-based with conceptual learning
BENEFITS: Efficiency; Cost and social learning with ability to share notes and link to additional resources

Within the paper Follett provides their prediction for how course materials will evolve. The report provides an interesting table outlining the evolution, along with several other great charts and graphs.  Finally, in the report Follett proposes seven key considerations for decision makers on campus:
  1. Develop a strategy to address issues surfacing as course materials evolve from print to digital. 
  2. Give key stakeholders a chance to bring their ideas and concerns into the decision-making process, a collaboration that offers the best prospect for practical solutions and long-term success.
  3. Consider IT support when making digital course material choices – both how the material might work in conjunction with existing campus technology and also how much time students and faculty will require to become familiar with the platform.
  4. Standardize platforms and applications adopted and used by faculty and students, minimizing IT support and reducing learning curve.
  5. Take advantage of the campus bookstore’s ability to leverage established relationships with publishers, soliciting and vetting faculty adoptions, then aggregating and making them conveniently available.
  6. Guard against quickly adopting technology because of pressure from industry “noise.”
  7. Be willing to relinquish the past.
 A very solid set of recommendations and advice, consistent with our prior recommendations.  The Follett report should definitely be on every store's reading list as they prepare and engage in their course materials strategy discussion.

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