Electronic Textbooks: Changing The Way Professors Teach and Students Learn

Jul 17, 2001, 01:00 ET from Rovia

    BOSTON, July 17 /PRNewswire/ -- The ritual of college students poring over
 textbooks with highlighter in hand will be changing at many campuses this
 September as increasing numbers of colleges expand their curriculum to include
 online textbooks.
     Accessing digital textbooks is simple, according to Andres Nannetti, CEO
 of Rovia (www.rovia.com), a Boston-based provider of secure, electronic
 distribution infrastructure.  A student goes online, downloads the reader
 software, and searches for their assigned textbook(s).  Rather than paying for
 the entire book, they rent access to either specific chapters, or the entire
 text.  Digital textbooks often include special features, such as the ability
 to highlight text, electronically bookmark pages, or even Instant Message
 (chat) with other classmates online.
     With most digital textbooks running about one-third of the price of print
 versions, they also aid students where it helps most - their checkbook.
     "I would love to see more digital versions of my textbooks," said Allison,
 a senior at Syracuse University.  "Buying ten books or more each semester,
 plus lab guides and other workbooks ... it really adds up."
     For professors eager to engage students in coursework, electronic
 textbooks provide a new way to communicate with students outside the
 classroom.  For example, they can annotate students' digital textbooks with
 insights, provide special guidance, or flag important information for a quiz.
 ETextbooks also enable professors to facilitate online study groups and offer
 one-click access to Websites and other multimedia tools referenced in the
     "In the past, students had limited digital textbook options because
 publishers worried about copyright infringement," says Nannetti.  "But now
 that textbook publishers have noted the prevalence of the 'wired campus' and
 embraced new eTextbook technology, students returning this fall will find many
 textbooks available digitally."
     Most college students today, born in the early 1980s, have never used a
 printed encyclopedia; so using a digital textbook should be a natural
 transition.  In fact, according to many professors it appears these students
 are actually more comfortable learning in a digital environment.
     With the ability to update information continuously, professors are
 finding digital textbooks to be much more flexible than printed versions.
 Most print textbooks are updated every three years or so, and information
 becomes outdated quickly.  For professors teaching technology, or other
 dynamic curriculums, three years is a lifetime.
     "Today's college student has grown up with real-time information, and
 interacting with multimedia features.  The ability to quickly update and
 customize the digital texts is a key benefit for their use in the classroom,"
 said John Pietsch, coordinator of information services at California
 Polytechnic University's center for teacher education.
     "I teach technical and business writing courses for students pursuing
 careers in technology," says Johndan Johnson-Eilola, technical communications
 professor at Clarkson University and director of the Eastman Kodak Center for
 Excellence in Communications.  "Online pedagogy better prepares students for
 their post-graduation work as so many of their careers will revolve around the
     With the publishing industry in the process of building its digital title
 portfolio, students and professors are ready to make the switch.  So, when
 your child comes home from campus this fall without books, don't be concerned
 ... they're online.
      Editorial Contact:
      Cameron Smith
      Bridgeman Communications
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