Podcast Episode 58: Digital Textbooks

- - posted in edtech, edtechsummer, episode, podcast

In the latest installment of #edtechsummer we focus on digital textbooks. These products go far beyond simple digital versions of the text, and often include embedded quizzes, smart highlighting, note taking, and interactive figures, all on top of attractive formatting. The big publishers have come a long way in the past few years. Catherine Medrano (College of the Sequoias) shares her experience teaching with Pearson Revel, Kate Antonovics (UCSD) tells us about McGraw-Hill SmartBook, and Stephanie Thomas (Cornell) explains what she and her students liked (and didn’t like) about the Cengage MindTap. Along the way we compare features, pricing, and availability of content.

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Show Notes

0:00 Intro

0:33 Why we think it’s helpful to hear stories from several actual users.

2:15 Follow-up on clicker episode: How does Kahoot! give their product away for free? What’s their business model?

4:40 What IS a digital textbook? It’s not just an ebook or a pdf. Who’s going to talk about what.

8:02 Catherine Medrano on using Pearson’s Revel to teach sociology. Using a digital textbook to help students acquire better study skills. Improving students’ quiz scores by giving them more practice.

14:40 Students can use the digital textbook on any device–including their phones. The instructor can see which quiz questions students struggle on–and then focus on that in class. Revel can also evaluate student essays algorithmically.

18:47 Students can also pay a bit more and get a physical version of the book. Students can listen to the textbook being read to them. Revel is being updated constantly. Students can also use many features of the digital textbook offline.

22:15 The digital version of her textbook is cheaper than the paper version, and the rental lasts longer than one semester. It’s easy for professors to find Revel textbooks online.

25:00 Doug’s interest in going paperless. Pearson invited Doug to present at a conference and he saw an introductory economics textbook authored specifically for that platform. Products in this category look a lot better than they used to. Textbooks also reflect the tastes of the time:

28:56 Kate Antonovics on writing and teaching with a digital textbook: McGraw Hill SmartBook.

31:49 SmartBook is adaptive: The software asks students questions tailored to the answers they give.

37:19 McGraw Hill also offers a platform with a bank of tests, videos, and more. SmarBbooks ask students about their level of confidence in their answers and respond accordingly. Cost is also a concern, since there are not ‘used’ SmartBooks. And a rental textbook can shut out economically-disadvantaged students.

44:53 Kate’s department is large enough to negotiate for the best prices.

47:07 What is the killer feature of the SmartBook?

48:32 Stephanie Thomas on teaching economics using Cengage MindTap. Why go paperless? Mindtap is sort of a learning management system that includes, supports and expands upon the textbook. The instructor can also add materials.

50:17 Google Chrome can translate the MindTap text for students. The cost of the ebook, a workbook, and web site access is less than a new paper textbook. Many students also purchase a loose-leaf hard copy–where a few years ago, they wanted everything digital.

54:01 MindTap will read the textbook to you. Most of the feedback from students has been positive. Students appreciated a deep bank of practice questions. Cost was an issue for students. The platform offers a graphing tool for student input.

57:31 Stephanie was drawn both to the textbook and to the extra materials. How to get started with MindTap.

1:00:08 The MindTap platform limits the way the instructor can layout text. LMS integration is possible, but not where Stephanie teaches. Stephanie is continuing with the platform.

1:02:04 Doug suggests picking a textbook for content first and then for features. What is the calculus of choosing a digital textbook? More and more publishers are motivated to create digital textbooks: there’s no used market. Inducing students to read before class–so you can do more interesting things in class.

1:08:23 Choose a digital textbook to meet a specific need.

1:10:09 Coming edtech summer topics: simulations and games, live video in the classroom

1:11:00 Signing off.