eBook Project Participants
Medgar Evers College eTextbook Pilot
PIs: Keming Liu and Jennifer Sparrow
Freshman Seminar (two section, both hybrid online)
College Composition II (one hybrid online section)
Ease of Setting Up Program:
Our pilot team consists of three instructors, an administrator in OAA, and a librarian. The initial task we set for ourselves was to learn about eTextbooks by visiting vendor websites, downloading trial eTextbooks, and speaking with sales reps. We sought to learn about the features of eTextbooks and also the platforms on which eTextbooks could be accessed. In addition to providing free eTextbooks to students in the pilot sections, we planned to have eTextbooks on reserve in the library (using laptop computers or Kindles with downloaded eTextbooks), just as we currently have hard copies of textbooks available to students for short loan periods. To help us compare eTextbooks we created an eTextbook Vendor Scorecard, which I would be happy to share with the group (but I can’t figure out how to attach it to this post).
Ease of Procuring eTextbooks
Ordering eTextbooks was the most challenging aspect of the pilot project. It seems that the textbook companies are somewhat confused about their eTextbooks, and we got different answers every time we contacted the vendors, sometimes even different answers from the same person! Our initial plan was to put downloadable versions of the eTextbooks on the library reserve loaner laptops/kindles and give the students web-based access. We wanted to compare the two versions of the eTextbook and find out if students liked using reserve eTextbooks. Working with various reps at Cengage and Coursesmart, we were told that Coursesmart could provide downloadable eTextbooks for the library and Cengage would provide the web-based versions. After days of phone calls and emails, we determined that libraries were not permitted to purchase downloadable eTextbooks and that all access would have to be via the web. This is o.k. for students in the pilot sections but it means that we can’t have loaner eTextbooks available in the library. We have, however, put the eTextbook reader software on two computer stations in the library which are reserved for eTextbook access and have access instructions posted.
Preliminary Data on Ease of Student Use
We began the pilot with a baseline survey in the third week of the semester, which indicated that 11 percent of students in pilot sections had used an eTextbook prior to the pilot and 13 percent had used eReaders such as Kindle, iPad, or Nook. Ninety five percent have computers at home. A fill-in-the-blank question that asked student about their current feelings about or knowledge of eTextbooks received 28 positive responses along the lines of “I am excited about learning to use eTextbook” and “I like that eTextbooks are less expensive” 18 neutral responses such as “I think it’s okay so far” or “I don’t know much about eTextbooks” and 4 negative responses: “I’d rather have a book to read,” “I do not like it,” “I need my books in hand” and “I think they are using us as guinea pigs. If I fail I am suing.”
A mid-semester survey has been distributed, but we have only received 18 responses (out of a possible 75).
We plan on continuing the pilot next semester, possibly expanding to other departments. In addition to the surveys mentioned above, pilot program assessment will compare outcomes in eTextbook sections with sections that use hard copy textbooks.
Here is my brief report on our ebook project to date.
Over the summer four faculty met to select three publishers to give presentations on their ebook capabilities. We meet with each of the three publishers to hear presentations on how their ebooks were accessed and used.
We selected CQ Press as they were able to provide a textbook and custom reader for each instructor for about $50. Each faculty member was able to choose readings from CQ Press’s entire collection. The ebook was printable but not downloadable.
Part of the grant was to help students pay for the book. This proved to be the most difficult part of the process to date. We went through the office of financial aid to identify students with financial need, our list of students to fund was a moving target as they moved in and out of classes over the first two weeks of the semester. Finding an acceptable way to pay the students was extremely difficult as money was initially transferred to our department’s OTPS budget.
We also posted a survey online to learn what the purchase experience was like for students. That data has been downloaded and we are about to start analyzing the data. The percentage of students who purchased the book varied widely among the three classes that participated in the project. In a large class of 87 students, every student purchased the book, but in a smaller class of 35 students only about 65% of students purchased the ebook. Student complaints have been minimal.
Earlier this week, one of the authors of the ebook came to campus to give a talk and met with all participants on the ebook project.
Thank you for the invitation. I, along with three other participants from the English Department at Medgar Evers College, will be presenting our project at CUNY IT on December 3rd. Our program title is: E-books: An Emerging Educational Technology.
Carl R. Andrews, Assistant Professor
Inter Library Loan Unit
Charles Evans Inniss Memorial Library
Medgar Evers College/CUNY
1650 Bedford Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11225
Phone: (718) 270-4873
Fax: (718) 270-5182
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