According to educational service and course material provider CourseSmart's Third Annual Survey on Education and Technology, college students are becoming much more dependent upon mobile devices and digital course materials—and that dependence is driving e-textbook adoption.
The survey was conducted in May by Wakefield Research among 500 currently enrolled 18-to-23-year-old American college students. According to its results, 99% of students have a mobile device, 79% felt that these devices save them time while learning and 66% said they use e-textbooks frequently.
"We do believe that digital basically will continue to grow at an exponential rate," says Cindy Clarke, senior vice president of marketing for CourseSmart, adding that Simba research predicts the digital industry will grow at five times the rate of print. "We also have a data point that indicates that many students, within five to 10 years’ time, don’t believe that print will be dominant any longer."
Are the days of print textbooks numbered?
These are figures the textbook giants should be paying attention to, if they aren't already. Only 7% of students think print textbooks will remain dominant, and 17% think that only e-textbooks will be in use 10 years from now. The number of students who say they have used an e-textbook is at 79%—up from 63% in 2011. That 66% of students who say they use textbooks frequently? It was only 43% two years ago.
Digital adoption is not only key to keeping with the times, but in controlling the costs of higher education. The CourseSmart survey showed that 49% of students decided not to attend an institution due to the cost being too high. A 72% majority, however, said that they would rather have a full-time job post-graduation than be debt-free.
"It was insightful to us, as well, to learn that students are really balancing the investment in their education with what they expect to have in terms of employment and where they’re going to live and how many jobs they think they’re going to have to hold down after college to actually pay their debt," says Clarke. "Certainly, as that becomes more of an emerging trend among students, higher education institutions will have to take that into consideration—especially if they’re seeing decreasing enrollment."
The burden falls on colleges and universities to prove their value to students, of course, and adopting more digital textbooks and resources, which can cost as much as 60% less than their print alternatives, is only one part of the strategy. Wi-Fi access has also been identified as a deciding factor for students choosing an institution, and is also an additional driver for the adoption of digital resources.
"Higher education has been behind on really addressing the quickly growing demand for Wi-Fi on campus," says Clarke. "Students use all sorts of digital devices to manage their lives and their academics, so institutions need to catch up. Students will decide whether or not they go to an institution, not only based on cost, but also based on Wi-Fi, Internet access, technology and things like that."
CourseSmart adds analytics to monitor student engagement
As the world's largest provider of course materials with over 40,000 titles from over 50 publishers, CourseSmart is also making it easier for institutions to provide more return on investment with CourseSmart analytics. Launched last week following a spring semester beta that included 3,700 students, 76 faculty members and 26 administrators at nine institutions, CourseSmart Analytics measures student engagement with digital course materials on an easy-to-use dashboard.
Instructors can track the number of highlights, notes and bookmarks in e-textbooks. Weekly trend charts track the impact of lesson plan changes, mid-terms and other exams on student engagement with these materials. Patterns and variances in student engagement can be tracked on a week-by-week basis with an engagement index. At-a-glance color coding spotlights both high-performing students and those who may need assistance.
In a press release, Texas A&M University-San Antonio Professor Adrian Guardia said, “I noticed a few of my students had very low engagement scores so I called them to check in. As we discussed the students’ engagement levels, many admitted they were having trouble, or were not keeping up with assigned reading. I found significant value in using the technology to better understand how my students were learning, and intervene before they fell too far behind.”
CourseSmart Analytics is available for free with every LMS integration of CourseSmart, and customized versions are available—along with individual course and faculty views—on tiered volume pricing.
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