More Schools Shifting to E-Textbooks for Students
By ROBERT A.
Paper textbooks are becoming a thing of the past for college and public school students, and the COVID-19 pandemic has hurried that trend in many cases.
Julie Keck, spokeswoman for Belmont College, said the pandemic has not interfered or even accelerated the process of shifting from paper to etextbooks.
“The college has been working on an e-book initiative for several years now so we were fully prepared,” she said.
“One of the biggest challenges was having a platform that was consistent and easy to use. Our BEConnected initiative using iPads was developed several years ago to provide one platform for our students and faculty. Everyone uses the same platform, therefore it makes it easier for the students and faculty in the classroom and easier for the college to support. This has been a gradual process – one that was enhanced by BEConnected. We have significantly reduced the cost of textbooks by offering a digital option for many of our classes,” Keck said.
The college has no hard deadline for a complete changeover. A bookstore remains on campus and there are no plans to close it, but Keck said through BEConnected the college has also partnered with Apple to open an Apple Authorized Campus Store and students potentially save enough in textbooks to purchase a device.
“A great advantage to using e-textbooks is affordability,” Keck said. “One major publisher has created a digital product that servers like a subscription service. Students pay one price and have access to all the publishers digital materials. Additionally, one option to save students money are free digital books. These can be accessed through services such as OpenStax.”
She said although there are advantages such as portability and enhanced learning abilities such as online homework and interactive assignments, there are some students who prefer textbooks
“Some students have mentioned issues of flipping back and forth between their e-book and other online activities. That being said, as time goes by we see more and more of an increase in students preferring digital.”
West Virginia Northern has started this semester by eliminating the brick and mortar bookstore entirely.
“Barnes and Noble, the fall semester was their last semester here at Northern,” David Barnhardt, director of communications and student recruitment, said, adding the college now uses the online book store Akademos. Every student’s schedule is the books they need are pre-loaded online and can be purchased and delivered to their homes. “Everybody goes online to order their books and also order any merchandise. … The traditional student is certainly used to shopping online these days and ordering online. The pandemic certainly has expedited that for some.”
The public schools are also making strides in the shift from paper books to electronic material. School officials generally say that, while this is not less expensive, they point out several advantages.
At Bridgeport Exempted Village School District, Leslie Kosanovic, Curriculum Director, said that every third through 12th grade student has an iPad and there are classroom iPads for the kindergarteners through second grade students.
School officials said accessibility is a critical component and they have worked hard to provide sufficient connectivity for students both at school and at home with upgraded internet connections around the building and giving internet hot spots to some students in the district.
“When looking at resources we consider online textbooks as a resource, and what we have done over many years is worked from the grade level standards. The teachers then take these standards and sequence them into applicable curriculum maps per subject/grade level(s). From that, the teachers then work as teams to align and realign instructionally-sound resources for which online text may be one of these resources,” Kosanovic said. She added that students have access to many electronic resources including textbooks and novels. “We strive to have a variety of resource choices for our students and staff. That way they can be best aligned to the needs of the whole group and/or the individual student.”
She also mentioned online libraries of books as well as math products and added that teachers have the ability to use the material in a way that is individualized for the students’ needs. Learning management systems also allow two-way communications between teachers and colleagues, parents and students.
“A teacher can literally video themselves, upload that video and provide an instructional explanation/expectation for which the students can respond,” she said, adding other online resources come with video tutorials with online resources as well.
Kosanovic said it can be a year-long process for a team of teachers and administrators to look at the variety of new products available before deciding on the software and/or resource. “As a team, we definitely tend to be very discerning when it comes to making the best decisions for our students.”
Superintendent Brent Ripley said learning is expected to improve even more once schools are back to a regular and consistent five-day schedule.
“Teachers are excited and prepared to use all resources that are available and to implement the technology and strategies to reach each individual child.
“They have truly embraced the changes and are using them to improve our student engagement and success,” Ripley said.
At St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools District, Superintendent Walt Skaggs said a total changeover to electronic textbooks is expected in the next five years.
“We’ve already started that process. We’ve got some of our classes already using the ebooks. I can see that continuing,” he said. “We started that a few years back. When certain textbooks came up for adoption, we might just buy a desk copy and then an access version so the students could have access without having to carry a lot of books…we don’t have them for all of them yet, but eventually that’ll be our goal.”
At Union Local School District, Curriculum Director Jayme Yonak said the school has been transitioning to digital curriculum for several years and there is a digital curriculum component in every subject.
The pandemic has only accelerated this process.
“I think it’s really forced us to think outside of the box and use digital resources that we never used before,” she said. “There was a lot of professional development in regards to different resources that were out there.”
She said another advantage is that companies are constantly updating and adding resources. Yonak added this has eliminated another traditional element of school. Of the three buildings, elementary is only one with a library, the other two spaces are now learning centers
“They’re not filled with the traditional shelves of books,” she said. “Five years ago they were libraries.”