By Paul Burden
It has been a little over a year since we began offering our student guides in an eBook digital format. Initially, we found these were being purchased primarily by individuals for their personal use, but now we are beginning to see increased use of eBooks in classrooms and training rooms. So, can eBooks really replace the traditional printed student guides you provide with your classes today? Well, it really depends on your students.
First, let me describe our eBooks. ASCENT student guides in eBook format contain the exact same content as the printed version. We use VitalSource Bookshelf® to download and view them, which can be installed on Windows® and Mac® computers and on tablets and smartphones running iOS™ and Android™ apps. They open up in the Bookshelf software or app in full color.
A built-in Contents tool enables students to browse and jump to specific topics. They can search within an eBook or within their eBook library for keywords. They can zoom in and out, which is great for images that contain a lot of detail and dimensions. There is also a highlighter tool that enables students to select text and add notes that they can easily find and refer back to later. Another really powerful feature is that you, as the instructor, can make your notes in an eBook student guide available to the people attending your class. They can subscribe to your notes if you invite them, and they can even see updates to your notes and new notes that you make available after the class is over.
One of our partners recently ran a training class piloting the use of eBooks. Students were informed of the pilot at the beginning of the class and given the choice of using a printed student guide if they did not want to participate in the trial. Most were happy to give this a try, though some did opt to stay with the hard-copy. The response by those that used the eBook was very positive.
The pilot was done using iPad® tablets with the VitalSource Bookshelf app installed. In the first 15 minutes of the class, the students were guided through creating a VitalSource user account and redeeming a code that was provided for their personal copy of the eBook. They were also given a quick tutorial on how to navigate in the eBook. From that point on, it was class as usual.
Feedback from the students included:
- It was great to have the student guide in color.
- Accessing the instructor’s own notes, and the added perspective that provided, was a big benefit.
- Using the highlighter tool during a lecture made it easy to refer back to and remember questions to ask.
Feedback from the instructor’s perspective included:
- If traveling to teach a class, it’s great to not to have to carry books or to have to ship them in advance.
- The highlighters and notes made it easy to identify things to bring to students’ attention.
- A tablet with the eBook installed is easy to carry around the classroom while providing over-the-shoulder support to students.
- Sharing my notes with the students enables me to provide my own additional value to the student guide.
When I say that replacing traditional printed student guides in your classes with eBooks depends on your students, I mean that it depends on how comfortable they are reading from a screen. While eReaders are extremely popular and commonplace now, many people still prefer paper when it comes to reading a magazine, a newspaper, a novel, or a training guide. So, be prepared for that by providing a hard-copy option if you decide to go with eBooks in your class. Here are some other suggestions to consider:
- If students are going to use the eBooks on computer rather than a tablet, provide a second monitor. This will enable the student to have the eBook open on one screen and the software being trained open on the other.
- Cables are available for most tablets to enable you to show the display through a projector or a computer monitor. This is useful for at the beginning of class when you are walking the students through the setup of the eBook.
- If the students are using tablets, provide stands to keep the tablets upright on the desks. Students may find it easier to work in this orientation, particularly when working on practice exercises.
- Disable the screen saver or lockout timer on tablets so the display does not continuously go off.
- Use appropriate settings to prevent unauthorized activities on the tablets during class, such as Internet browsing and installation of apps. Once the eBook is downloaded to the app, you can even disconnect the tablets from their wireless Internet access.
- Keep tablet chargers on hand so batteries can be recharged at the end of the day, if necessary.
- At the end of class, walk students through how to deactivate the eBook on your equipment and sign out. Provide instructions on how they can access their eBook on their own tablet or computer.
We will be exploring the capabilities of eBooks even further in the coming months, looking at multimedia content and built in assessments, for example. If you have used student guide eBooks in your class as an instructor or as a student, or are considering it, I am interested to hear you experience. Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments area below, or contact me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.