CourseSmart and STEPP Conduct a Study on the Accessibility of eTextbooksBy Mercy Pilkington
GoodeReader reported on digital textbook publisher CourseSmart’s involvement in a multi-year study by STEPP (STudent Erent Pilot Project) on how the rental of digital textbooks are affecting learning outcomes at the higher education level, with a special focus on providing easier and more cost effective accessibility for students with special needs. This week, Cindy Clarke, CourseSmart’s Vice President of Marketing, spoke with GoodeReader about the recent study and this need for a broader adoption of the existing technology.
“CourseSmart’s viewpoint on accessibility is that all students deserve to be treated equally and have equal access to course materials at an affordable price. It’s imperative that those who select course materials keep in mind the cost and accessibility.”
Studies have shown that those students who have early access to their materials are less likely to drop their classes and are more likely to do well, so the same accessibility is a concern for students have special considerations when relating to their texts, like a print-specific disability. For users with printer related disabilities, a browser based site is important. The browsing and purchasing capabilities are just as important as the reading experience for independent users.
“First time students were able to enjoy the benefits of etextbooks, like a savings of 50% over print, along with instant, anytime-anywhere access to their course materials on a web-enabled device so they don’t have to buy a specific device. Our reader enables all users to take notes, highlight, and to compile those notes and highlights in one easy to use tab. Very important for those with print related disabilities. It’s very easy for students using a e-textbooks to find what the professor is referring to since the pages in the digital textbook match the pages in the print textbook.”
STEPP began its study in 2010 using CourseSmart content, along with help from Alternative Media Access Center (AMAC) and Access Text Network (ATN), and is concerned with coming up with affordable texts for all students. Those consumers with print related disabilities are a subset of that group, which is important considering CourseSmart already has over three million student and faculty users in the US, UK, and Europe.
“One of the great things about the STEP program is it has great intentions and a great goal, but most important, the organization has been very focused on making sure we are achieving those goals. The good news is the initiative is performing against the goals, with 77% of students saying they did save money by renting etexts. 80% of students who needed an accessible textbook were satisfied with the quality, and nearly 80% of students said they accessible electronic text provided them with what they needed for class.”
Mercy Pilkington is a young-adult author and a teacher in a correctional facility. She does not have a single textbook in her classroom. With the top-of-the-line technology at her disposal and the low reading ability of many of her students, there’s no need for standard paper texts. Instead she relies on e-readers, iPads, desktop PCs, Polycom video conferencing equipment for virtual field trips, live streaming for science demonstrations, and text-to-speech read-aloud software to teach English and science. Within the next ten years, public school classrooms across the country are going to look a lot more like Mercy’s classroom because the educational possibilities with these kinds of technologies are limitless. Have a question? Send an email to email@example.com
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