Schools Transitioning to Digital Textbooks

kindle keyboard on top of macbookThe transition to digital textbooks heralds another step to modernizing schools and making technology more readily available for students.

The State of Florida has a law that states that digital textbooks must be available in K-12 schools by 2015. A special team of people who were in charge of making that happen attended a recently concluded conference in educational technology and the largest to date in the industry, the Florida Educational Technology Conference, in Orlando, Florida.

William “And” Shaw, a history and economics K-12 teacher in Clearwater High School in Clearwater, was recently challenged when the school began distributing Kindle to each student. The allocation of the reading device is a preparation for the institution’s attempt to use textbooks in digital format.

Shaw now serves as Clearwater’s Kindle technology program’s coordinator handling more than 3,300 accounts and devices which includes Kindle Keyboards, Kindle Fires and other reading bring your own devices (BYOD) such as the iPad.

The school specifically chose Kindle because it has a huge collection of free books and is equipped with universal 3G service. As part of protecting student’s data, they received “R2-D2,” two digit-two digit code which is used to identifying their device instead of using their real name.

A nine member group of teachers, businessmen, district leaders, and parents called Florida’s Digital Instructional Materials Work Group is in charge of realizing or figuring out how to make digital textbooks available to students by 2015. The group plans to level the playing field by making sure all students across a wide range of economic background have equal chance of accessing textbooks and are provided with reader device if they still don’t have one.

Computer technology has changed the way we educate our children and it will continue to evolve as we discover new ways to make technoloyg work for us. CourseEasy rallies behind educational institutions as well as government agencies in charge with securing sustainable educational plans for the benefit of American students.

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2013 is Year of Personalized Learning

library with students readingPicking the wrong major is one of the major problems based on the result of the recent studies conducted among college students. It turns out that part of the problem is blamed to federal student loan process where students have to choose their major and put them on the application form before they get the chance to even discuss these to their professors or mentors in schools.

Upon identifying the reasons why many college students fail to graduate or finish their college education the government may respond soon to this dilemma and plan to make changes to the system.

The process is viewed as backwards and is not healthy for many students therefore many educational institutions are trying to figure out how they can better support students given the current situation and how some system changes could affect future enrolment as well as graduation rate.

If you’ve ever heard of Tennessee’s performance-funding model, many schools are encouraged to support students with appropriate program to help them achieve their educational goals instead of encouraging more enrollees in schools. By doing so schools get more state funding.

Tristan Denley and Austin Peay State University (APSU) president Timothy L. Hall pointed out just how effective this new system is as they’ve seen increased number of student graduates for the past five years which is measured at 25%.

Today, education gear towards personalization. There’s no one-size-fits-all modem that works for all types of students. Educational programs are being developed that tailors to each student’s capabilities and interest in order to better assist them in achieving their goals.

The joint project of the New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, called 2013 Horizon Report on higher education, speaks about personalized learning as a challenge for this year. It stated,

“The increasing demand for education that is customized to each student’s unique needs is driving the development of new technologies that provide more learner choice and control and allow for differentiated instruction. Technology can and should support individual choices about access to materials and expertise, amount and type of educational content, and methods of teaching.”

CourseEasy is supporting personalized learning as it helps student make better academic decisions themselves and not because they are pressured by some institutions or people around them. Our academic tools, an academic cloud model, are designed to help each student better manage their academic work and other activities related to their studies.

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How to Obtain Better Course Ratings through Rate My Professor Feature

college studentMost students tend to become punitive and harsh when providing course ratings. Professors who want to get good feedback should be more proactive in these three aspects.

Every end of the semester, course ratings are processed. Students are asked to fill out evaluation forms to assess how their professors and courses have been helpful to them. The ratings are basis for evaluating performance of instructors. Those can also provide feedback so that professors will know how to do better next time.

CourseEasy has a facility that allows a student to actually rate a professor and provide information to professor’s way of handling the class and his “apparent” level of expertise and method of teaching. It is an efficient way to provide clues as to the professor’s performance inasmuch as college students are concerned.

It is not surprising that most students are punitive and harsh during course ratings. Professors who intend to get higher ratings should aim to make students enjoy the course. To get better ratings from their students, they should be proactive through these three ways.

Understanding today’s college students

They may not directly say it, but in general, college students want their professors to know who they are. They will appreciate it if their professors will know their names and will understand them. Modern students are technologically savvy and busy with so many things. Understand that not all of them are already ready for college coursework.

Professors should aim to help all their students through making them perform better in class. For a start, ample background knowledge should be provided about subject areas. It also helps to share rationale behind what instructors and students should do. There is a need to clearly and interestingly explain why the lessons have to be learned no matter how difficult they are. Greater motivation to study usually ends up with higher course ratings provided by students.

Setting criteria for grading

Every student wants to achieve high grades. Even if they don’t say it, they want to know how to achieve their targeted grades. Today’s college students are familiar with rubrics and criteria sheets, which they have been encountering since their elementary school. Thus, they may expect the same in college. It is not surprising that students want to determine their standing on any particular day within the semester.

Professors should adopt a ‘no-mystery’ grading approach. There should be simplicity and clarity to the grading system, which should be re-explained briefly after returning quizzes, exams, and assignments to them. During first day of classes, it is normal for students to be overloaded with too much information. They usually get more ready to understand the grading system after the first assignment is graded.

Getting early feedback

Course ratings are summative and are processed at the end of the semester. Some professors aim to respond promptly to students’ needs without waiting for the end-of-course evaluation. Formative feedback can be collected earlier during the semester to achieve teaching goals.

It is effective to collect formative feedback during examinations or submission of major papers. It is strategic to attach a page at the back of exam sheets or ask students to submit a paper answering questions about their learning process, the class activities they like and dislike, the topics that remain difficult, and their suggestions to professors.

The Importance of College Course Planning

boston collegeCollege course planning enables students to take control of their schedule and coursework. It is an important activity based on the following advantages.

College course planning is a way students can exercise their freedom to choose and decide for their studies. They get the power to choose the courses they take considering the schedule and the professor. They can now carefully and strategically choose classes to accommodate their other responsibilities and obligations.

There is a reason why most colleges and universities allow their students to choose their classes. Those institutions provide a list of required courses to take, leaving students to decide when to enroll in those subjects. Course planning is an important activity based on the following advantages.

Adjusting to limited budget

Students who have limited financial resources can use college course planning to stay within their budget. They can opt to attend school on a part-time basis. Enrolling in just one to three courses per semester will be less costly compared to enrolling in six or more courses as a full-time student.

However, going part-time will result to extending a student’s college years. For instance, a typical four-year program may be completed longer if a student goes part-time or if he enrolls in just one college course or two each semester. Moreover, taking a slow pace can be more advantageous to students who aim to excel in courses. Taking just one or a few courses per semester will also mean being able to focus more on those subjects.

Getting ideal class schedules

Effective course planning can help obtain a strategic schedule of classes. A student may first check out the official course schedule before deciding to enlist and enroll in any course. He may strategically choose which courses to take based on what days the classes are held.

This is important for those who prefer to attend classes for just two or three days in a week. Working students need to carefully choose the schedules of their classes. Their class schedules must be manageable enough so those may not possibly interfere with their part-time job obligations. An independent or working student can strategically take schedules that will require him to go to school and attend classes for just two days or three days in a week. He may spend the other days of the week doing his job duties.

Logically, it will be costlier for a student to go to the campus and attend classes four or five days a week. It will also consume more time for preparations and traveling to and from the school premises. College course planning can be most helpful to students who need to lower transportation expenses. However, they should understand that choosing classes held just two days a week can be overwhelming because the school days may get really hectic especially during the mid-terms and finals season.

Here at CourseEasy we are support course planning by providing the necessary tools based in cloud computing technology that allows teachers to better manage their classes. We want them to be able to collaborate and engage effectively with their students while freeing up more time that they can allot for their personal improvement.

We offer tools that helps educator give assignments, create course syllabus, as well as conduct exams in one unified online tool. Check out the features section for more info.

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Class Collaboration and Classroom Management with CourseEasy

courseeasyTeachers face a never ending challenges in classrooms. Classroom management, grade computation, and collaboration with students are some of the focal points of what challenges teachers when in school.

While the good old methodologies in managing students in classroom are still in use in many of the schools today, there are new technologies that are beginning to surface and some are already being used and tested in many schools around the globe.

The need to take all work online has been proposed in may academic institutions. Cloud computing is the main technology used in most educational software and programs because it supports fast and easy access of files and other information shared over the web. You want your educators to free themselves with unnecessary paperworks or “extras” that could probably be resolved by providing them the appropriate tools they need to better manage their time and resources as well as manage their teaching loads.

Assignments, exams, and grade computation can take toll on the health of educators because they eat up valuable time that could probably be allotted to some other useful activities like professional pursuits. These are the things CourseEasy wants to address and help teachers better manage their time and resources and be the best they can be in classrooms.

CourseEasy aims to offer a unique single system where students, teachers, and the entire academic institution can work together to better align their individual efforts to create synergy. Many educational institutions envision to have a better way to make this happen and cloud computing is one answer to that.

Our company is working very hard to integrate all the needed systems to help school officials, professors, and students to better manage their academic activities or work and put them all in one place. This way, schools don’t have to invest millions in sum of money just to setup all individual systems they need to function when all they need is unified academic cloud computing system to help them function with less work but increased productivity.

Online Bookstores are Becoming More Social

bookstoreThe online bookstore business is booming due partly to the educational reforms being implemented recently especially with open textbook project. With many textbooks starting to be converted digitally the ways by which they are sold also changes.

This is the same concept we offer here at CourseEasy. We aim to provide college bookstores the tools to make their bookstore from “two-day relevance to all year round”. The entire system is likened to a social network where students can create an account and collaborate with their fellow students as well as teachers. Students are also given the chance to manage and keep record of their GPA and have built-in calculator that allows them to check if they’re meeting their academic goals.

Other tools such as personal bookshelf and Notes, and Semester Calendar are some of the really cool tools that students can use in order to better manage their school work.

If there’s one thing that’s lacking in present-day educational system, active collaboration is missing. Students need to be able to connect with other students so that they can make full sense of what they are studying. Group study is an effective way to learn and better understand complicated concepts in any field.

CourseEasy’s social network interface makes more attractive for students to use the tool because they find the features familiar. And the fact that its familiar it will easily attract users leading to a successful learning ecosystem.

Now bookstores doesn’t have to be irrelevant after back-to-school season. Now schools can improve the relevance of their college bookstore by allowing student to collaborate in a learning community and help them manage their learning tasks and intensify their learning potential and help them achieve more while studying.

All these technology are based on cloud computing and it’s a way to move forward in terms of improving the shape of our educational institutions today. Talk to us to know more about CourseEasy’s proprietary online bookstore system.

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The Infographic on School Costs

The inflating price of textbooks has been one of the college students’ woes, the publishers’ El Dorado and the reason why college professors go Pontius Pilate. Intensive analyzation of the entire system has been made and thoughtful suggestions are offered.

Talk about the cost of going to college and more than often you will hear about the textbooks’ inflated price. But what more alarming than that is how the students seem to ignore the very steep rock face of the textbooks’ price that’s nearly impossible to climb; students feel so helpless to correct the entire system. The act of apparent unconcern gives the textbook companies a strategic position in the market. This has been taking place for years. Publishers have managed the academia somehow unaware of the textbook prices thus turning themselves an invincible force in the textbook market while turning the students vulnerable.

Students somehow are seizing the power back thru the emergence of new options available to them – online book sellers, book rentals, e-books, open source. These solutions are not one-size-fits-all to this ever-changing problem but with the enactment of reforms by the government, students can save a hundred or two. And in college this is a significant amount.

How Much Are We Talking About Here?

Major textbook publishers bleed college students dry by rising the textbook prices by twofold since mid 80′s.

Average cost of a single textbook is as worth as a person’s monthly budget for his groceries.
An annual cost of textbooks is enough for someone to buy a Mac Air or to pretty cover 75% of tuition costs at a two-year public school.

Textbook Market Analyzed

In a typical market, merchants, i.e. the publishers, compete with one another to sell the most products while the consumers, in this case the students, are free to choose what they want to buy based on quality and price. Unfortunately, this is not what happens in the current textbook market.

In present-day textbook market, professors indicate the recommended textbook for the course, while the publisher seems like charging whatever they want. This regrettable set-up renders the student both powerless and helpless.

Who’s to Blame?

Nobody is pointing the guilty finger at college professors. They select textbooks which they deem ideal for their course though most of them admit that they are not made aware, or at least informed, by the publishers about the textbook prices. Professors disclose that should they know about the price of the textbooks they require students to secure, they would rather switch to a cheaper textbook of same content.

As for the students, there are quite a lot of ways to win the game by not playing the normal rules, in a way publishers do not want you to. Each one is not picture-perfect; students can mix-and-match these solutions to suit their needs.

Used Textbooks
Up to half of the price of its new counterpart
Just up to a quarter of textbooks out in the market are used
Tend to sell out quickly

Buying Online
Up to 40% cheaper than you buy in regular bookstores
Because of that, once in a while, they run out of stock of the books you need

Textbook Rentals
61% more affordable than buying textbooks
Almost all students said they would rent if they got a chance to
A new fad in the textbook market structure; not yet widely available on most campuses

E-books
Up to 52% cheaper than physical textbooks
Have no buyback value, more than often, expire after a semester
Only half of the students admit they’re comfortable using them

Open Books
The average amount per book is $30
Students can choose between digital or print format
Not yet widely accessible

Congress Shake-up on Textbook Shakedown

Congress can no longer turn a blind eye. The Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA) effective July 1, 2010, contains provisions on textbooks and textbook costs that need to be complied:

Publishers will made textbook information (ISBN, cost) readily available for faculty and to share the data with campus bookstore
Universities and colleges must publish information on required textbook in course schedules or registrations.
Publishers must break down the textbook bundles and supplemental materials.
…
Things are about to change. With new technology, new market players and with legislative intervention, students now are starting to have their power back over the textbook problem.

the infographic on school cost

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New Educational Technologies vs. Paper Books

professor discussing in front of studentsNew educational technologies are starting to emerge as an additional teaching and learning tools by teachers and students respectively. You’ve probably seen in the news how Secretary Arne Duncan announced how she wanted traditional printed textbooks to be a thing of the past and leave them obsolete.

Justin Hollander, an urban and environmental policy and planning assistant professor at Tufts University, asserted that the hasty promotion of digital textbooks presents itself a huge danger to the already tested and effective paper textbooks. He maintained the fact that paper books are not obsolete and are highly tested as effective learning tools for many centuries and that abandoning paper-based books completely are inimical to the learning success of students.

Since digital textbooks are still “unproven” Hollander suggested that we stick to the good old paper before we completely abandon what was already working for all students. Digital books are hyped extravagantly promoted basically because many Internet companies are lobbying to convince governments that going digital for textbooks is the way to go.

There is danger to abandoning paper-based books and adopt a new way to store the knowledge that are usually stored in paper form simply because the digital version is not yet universally tested and little studies have been devoted to see its effectiveness. There might be some schools or pilot universities who have been using it for a while but we would like to see it on a far more bigger picture and examine if it’s feasible to stop usage of traditional method of learning from books.

Platforms like open source textbooks are starting to become popular now because it simplifies the publication process and leveled the playing field for producing textbooks. More authors are being encouraged to write as the new platform frees them from unwarranted cut from huge publishers that are trying to make money out of producing books.

Digital textbooks per se are really not “unproven”. In fact, the universities and students who have been using them are starting to appreciate the convenience of being able to bring many books without really breaking their back. Now students don’t have to bring stack of books when going to schools and instead just download them in their e-readers and open them up in classrooms.

Science textbooks are now starting to find their way to e-readers and can be downloaded and accessed everywhere. Download only takes seconds and there’s no need to wait in line in bookstores to get them. Online bookstores are available and they are interactive and easy to use. Often, the price of online textbooks are way too cheaper than their paper counterparts.

The advantage and disadvantages of using new technology can only be gauged once students started using it. Whether or not it’s useful for the academic world depend on how students are reacting to it. eBooks and other tools in the world of educational technology are useful and should not be abandoned altogether just because they threaten the already tested and long serving paper books.

As the years go by more college courses are starting to demand a more sophisticated way to access learning materials and this is being spearheaded by schools that are not hesitant to diversify their teaching strategies. With the availability of gadgets like smartphones, tablets, and netbooks the push towards a all-digital textbook environment for students is ensured.

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Five Teaching Tools for Modern Teachers

teacher and student in front of computerToday’s teachers compete with modern devices for their students’ attention. This article enumerates five modern teaching tools that can help teachers effectively engage their students in classroom and learning.

Computer technology has advanced in recent decade and we’ve seen how computers, software, and other devices like mobile phones have changed in the recent years. They are everywhere – home, work, as well as in public and private spaces. But little has been done in to really help schools cope with the kind of changes happening everywhere and this has been the demand of academic institutions, teachers, as well as students.

There are tools that are being developed to help teachers and students manage their academic work. But most of them are still in their testing stage and we are yet to see them how they work and how both teachers and students respond to the new tools.

We have listed some tools below to give you an idea about some of the exciting development in the realm of educational technology. We are excited to see them thrive and flourish and help the academia cope up with the rapidly changing educational landscape. Are you using any of these tools? Tell us by leaving your thoughts below in the comment section.

  1. Lore. Social media is the new ‘in’ thing for the youth. This interest of the students in this kind of technology is what inspired Lore in finding a way for teachers to easily manage their course even over long distance. Lore offers easier class collaboration, efficient communication, and effortless grading. The program also provides online library, and even calendar and grade book so teachers and students both organize and find the information they need.
  2. GlobalScholar. GlobalScholar is used in 1,000 school districts in the United States, and is an excellent part of every instructor’s teaching inventory. It offers a number of teacher- and student-friendly software programs such as Pinnacle Student Information System (for grade management, transcripts, and scheduling), Pinnacle Grade (incorporates student information to each student’s profile), and Pinnacle Instruction (access, creation and storage of approved curricula, sharing of online assessments and other information with parents).
  3. Top Hat Monocle. This program runs on mobile devices that can connect to the internet. With Top Hat Monocle, instructors can carry out many classroom activities through these devices, making in-room learning more fun and exciting for students. Teachers can conduct polls and quizzes and even open-ended and essay-type questions. It can also run interactive demos or be used as a tool for presentation. THM allows students to finish homework and review them at home. Teachers can upload files to be shared to students, as well as have an automatically updated grade book.
  4. Socrative. Socrative is an app that runs on any devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Teachers are given the opportunity to be in charge of the room by choosing specific exercises (among a number of educational games and activities) for the class. Real time interaction and smooth flow of questions and games make Socrative very engaging for students and instructors. The teacher can also view grades and test results online as a Google Spreadsheet.
  5. 19Pencils. 19Pencils is still on its beta run, but it promises to make the lives of teachers and students easier. Instructors can easily access thousands of resources by searching from thousands of educational topics. Teachers can also make comparisons with what other teachers in the school or even in the whole district, are using. Creating quizzes is easier, and teachers can give their students easier time in accessing resources by making your own class web page. Educational websites (video tutorials, online PDF file, etc), can be easily added and stored for future reference.

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Teachers and Parents Supports Use of Gizmos in Schools

students studying using apple laptopsA poll made by Leading Education by Advancing Digital Commission has revealed that a greater number of teachers and parents support the use of technology in classrooms. The result of the survey also shows to support the move that school systems to be more aggressive in addressing that pressing need to integrate the use of technology in classrooms.

The poll is a result of surveying 812 K-12 teachers in the public sector and 883 parents. An astounding percentage shows that 91% of parents surveyed as well as 96% of teachers think that technology will contribute to learning of students of today and the coming decades. The respondents also believe that technology is a necessary tool to enhance learning of today’s American students.

There’s a huge demand towards the use of technology in classrooms given that the iPad and other tablets are increasingly being used as an alternative to college textbooks. Authors are starting to utilize online publishing tools in order to a new kind of textbook where lessons are presented by chunk based on topic compared to current textbooks of today where all lessons are presented in chronological way starting from general to specific.

The move to fortify the use of technology in schools is a response to the worsening quality of education in public school system. It’s alarming to see that public schools lag behind private institutions and schools from other countries. This move also calls for increasing government’s budget allocation on public institutions and policy makers are starting to see how many of the public school programs will benefit from bigger budget.

The survey also show that majority of the parents and teachers (76 percent of parents, 89 percent of teachers) expressed their interest in purchasing a $200 any internet-powered digital device than buying traditional textbook.

While the intention was good and the overall response to all the concerned groups is positive, teachers expressed concerns they are not receiving the needed training to become fully comfortable with the technology to be used in classrooms as well and use them to their full capacity. This has always been a normal response when change occurs and both policy makers and the appropriate government representatives in the education department are working together to make the transition as smooth as possible and help teachers adapt to the changes effortlessly.

CourseEasy has created a learning platform where students can manage their classes and record their overall experience in a class, textbook, or course. It also allows collaboration among students in a fun and easy-to-use social networking system focused on education. Take a look at the CourseEasy’s academic cloud system features.

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