Imagine a college class with no textbooks…at least no textbooks with paper pages and spines. That’s exactly what happened in 16 classes for 693 students at the University of Virginia (UVa) during the Fall 2012 semester. Partnering with Internet2 and EDUCAUSE, UVa participated in a pilot study involving the purchase, distribution, and use of electronic textbooks, or eTexts. In the pilot study, publishers provided UVa access to eTexts for all students in selected courses for free, and students had access to the materials until the end of the semester. For the most part, the eTexts were simply digitalized versions of the paper version of the textbook, but special annotations and markings could be utilized by instructors and students alike through the software that provided access to the eTexts. In this first phase of the distribution of eTexts, UVa obtained baseline assessment information about students’ perceptions of the eTexts on a variety of issues, ranging from ease of use, methods of access, effectiveness in facilitating learning outcomes, and satisfaction in comparison to paper versions. Moreover, course instructors were surveyed or interviewed about their perceptions of the eTexts on issues related to future motivations to use eTexts, use of the various features of the eText software, effects on student learning and quality of interactions with students, and accessibility difficulties.
In this presentation, UVa Associate Vice President and Deputy Chief Information Office Michael McPherson and Director of the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education Karen Kurotsuchi Inkelas will present the results from the Fall 2012 baseline assessments and note the implications of the findings in terms of the use of eTexts in courses
at UVA in the near and long-term future.
Currently, we are still collecting the faculty assessment, but we have preliminary results from the student assessment. In general, the student respondents did not feel that the eTexts enhanced their learning needs. The overwhelming majority of student respondents (62.9% to 88.7%) were either neutral or did not feel that the eTexts facilitated superior learning over traditional textbooks in a variety of areas, such as: understanding ideas and concepts taught in class; engagement with the course content; organizing and structuring learning; and interaction and collaboration with classmates or the professor. However, these low results may be due in part to the fact that most students reported that they did not use the eText interactive features, such as annotations and highlighting. Regarding user-friendliness, the majority (52.9%) of student respondents indicated that the features and navigation of the eText (through the use of the Courseload software) were easy to use, despite 41.3% indicating initial difficulty using the eText and Courseload software. Finally, the student respondents indicated that the following factors would be important when considering the purchase of future eTexts: costs less than traditional textbooks, accessible without an internet connection, available for more than only one term, and easy portability. The full results from the student assessment, as well as for the faculty assessment will be presented during our presentation.