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Introduction to Digital Text Pilot
Students, parents, legislators, faculty, the academic leaders at our institutions, and even the textbook publishers, share a desire to reduce the cost of textbooks and other instructional materials for students. Recent draft bills before the Ohio legislature (Senate Bill 151, now withdrawn) and the U.S. Congress (as part of the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act) include provisions that seek to reduce the cost of textbooks for learners. More than just reducing costs, however, we are also seeking new instructional models with the potential to support even greater student learning. Specifically, we seek to answer these two intertwined questions:
- Can distribution of digital instructional materials reduce the cost of “textbooks” to students in Ohio?
- Can digital distribution of instructional materials improve learning outcomes of students in Ohio?
Toward the twin goals of reducing textbook costs and improving learning outcomes, OhioLINK, working within an Ohio Board of Regents Project called Collective Action, is leading a pilot project to examine the combined impact of: (1) a reduction in the cost of instructional materials by approximately 50%, with (2) an effective use of electronically based instructional materials (electronic value added textbook package). This ODCE session is a preliminary reporting of the results of this pilot project.
Early in 2007, OhioLINK engaged in conversation with four publishing partners -- Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishing, McGraw-Hill Publishing, Pearson Publishing, and Thomson Publishing -- to select leading textbooks in Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting, Introductory Non-majors Biology, Introductory Psychology, Beginning Algebra, and Freshman Composition to be used in the pilot. These texts are very heavily used in many courses throughout Ohio and impact large numbers of our students.
In April 2007, a call was put out to Ohio colleges and universities for instructors to lead studies of students using these digital learning materials. The following criteria was used to select our pilot sites:
- Commitment of the institution to the project;
- Commitment of the participating faculty member to the project through use of the electronic textbook package as the central resource required for student success, and integration of the electronic textbook package’s value added capabilities into the course pedagogy;
- A willingness and interest in gathering data that will serve as the basis for our overall findings (See Appendix 2 for research techniques to be used);
- Diversity- we seek schools of different sizes, publics and privates, 2-year and 4-year;
- An early commitment of the course(s)/section(s) that will use the book and a willingness to meet twice during the summer for discussion and to develop best practices;
- Agreement that the data collected will be publicly shared and that pilot results be used in a showcase at the March 2008 ODCE conference. Selected pilot instructors may be asked to personally participate in the ODCE;
- Recognition that in this age of accountability, we need to work together to control educational costs and promote student success in meeting learning goals.
Two sites were selected to perform the study for the fall of 2007. Dr. Lenonard S. Mark, Professor of Psychology at Miami University used the Exploring Psychology text by David G. Myers from Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishing Group. Brother Daniel Klco, Instructor in Biology at the University of Dayton use the Biology text by Neil Campbell from Pearson Education, Inc.. In the latter case, the same instructor taught one section with the enhanced digital learning materials from the pilot and one with the standard paper textbook. Both publishers could meet the price target for the digital learning materials at one-half of the cost of a new physical textbook.
At the end of the study, over three quarters of the students (77% at Miami and 92% at U. Dayton) agreed with the statement that the institution should continue the pilot programs on digital learning materials. A majority of students would prefer (59% at Miami, 60% at U. Dayton) to use an electronic textbook rather than a paper textbook as long as the option to use a paper version of the textbook remained available.
The pilot projects are continuing with a course in the winter quarter at the University of Cincinnati. Faculty and instructors interested in participating in the pilot should contact Steve Acker (firstname.lastname@example.org), Peter Murray (peter@OhioLINK.edu) or Fred Roeker (email@example.com).
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