Textbooks have been the woe of students for generations. They’re heavy, fragile, expensive, and get outdated very quickly. But many schools are moving toward a much more technologically savvy way of communicating information, and it might save students from having to cart around any more books.
As digital copies of books become more readily available, publishers are also adjusting to the possibilities that lie within them. They can add videos and sound, link to sources and additional resources. The possibilities go far beyond what the traditional textbook offers, and schools and teachers have taken notice.
Texas A&M is one university that’s beginning to switch completely over to digital textbooks. Textbooks from CourseSmart offer some unique capabilities: the tool reports how often students “open” their books, whether they took notes or highlighted, which pages were read, and whether sections were skipped.
Teachers can use those reports to find out just how prepared students actually are. It even sends charts and statistics in a variety of categories. Publishers can have access to these statistics as well, which helps them modify and improve future editions. Students can access the CourseSmart textbooks on computers, tablets, and even smartphones.
While there are some obvious advantages that digital textbooks offer, there are certainly some drawbacks as well. Many students prefer taking notes by hand and being able to write in books and physically bookmark them. And some warn that teachers will need to be wary of students who simply flip pages periodically while doing something else.
It seems a certainty that textbooks will someday be primarily digital—but will the switch ever be made complete? Some believe so. According to CBC News, UBC-Okanagan associate professor Robert Cambell says it’s been more than ten years since he’s used a textbook. What do you think? Will others soon follow his example?