HCC-SOUTHWEST PILOT PROGRAM AXES TEXTBOOKS
Electronic reader introduces a paperless classroom concept
(HOUSTON) – Houston Community College Southwest recently launched a pilot program introducing an electronic reader device in place of traditional college textbooks. The project, financed through HCC Chancellor Mary Spangler’s Innovative Fund Program, features an Amazon Kindle®, and its goal is to determine if these devices are the future of classrooms across America. The pilot will involve a Philosophy and English course this fall and is tied to the College’s plan to find innovative ways to enhance student learning.
“We are very excited about having this cutting edge technology at the hands of our students, says Dr. Doug Rowlett, HCC-SW English professor and head of the project. “We anticipate great results from the pilot and will closely monitor and research the outcome.”
The idea evolved from a discussion and debate over two key issues: the outrageous cost of textbooks and the desire to cut those costs yet maintain the quality and accessibility of texts without restricting student mobility. eBooks and eBook readers quickly became the focus of a proposed solution to these problems.
Once the idea was born, the research began. Rowlett, quickly assembled a team of collaborators to research this project, including the devices and concept of a truly paperless classroom. Together they found more and more college textbook titles are quickly being offered through eBook readers. In addition the group found that while some colleges and universities are utilizing the devices, virtually no other community college in the country has taken part in such a project.
“The idea that we are quite possibly one of the first community colleges to engage in a pilot of this magnitude is impressive,” says Dr. Laurel Lacroix, HCC-Southwest faculty member. “My students were both eager and inquisitive about using the Amazon Kindle®.”
The concept is easy and it holds several key components. One factor is mobility; the thought of having hundreds of textbook titles and research materials at your fingertips is astounding. Students will no longer have to carry around books in backpacks. Another factor is expense, with the rising cost of college textbooks; students now have another, inexpensive option. Its accessibility is also an advantage. Students will no longer have to wait in long lines at bookstores or search for online bargains. Everything is purchased online with the touch of a mouse and books are downloaded in a matter of minutes. Ebook readers also boast a cost effective and environmental friendly format. Publishers would spend less publishing books and students would no longer need to purchase those 800 page biology texts, thus saving paper along the way.
The notion of a paperless classroom is still years away and there are barriers to overcome in order to get there. There is an initial investment to be made considering the Amazon Kindle® and similar devices on the market retail for $149.99 and up.
The question is will the device deter or enhance student’s learning abilities and will it encourage or discourage traditional reading methods? That is all part of what HCC SW expects the pilot program to answer.
After the semester concludes in December, an intense assessment of the program will be conducted. Students involved in the pilot will be asked to fill out a survey regarding their experience. Rowlett’s team of collaborators will follow-up with research regarding the outcomes. Three key factors will be assessed. First is to measure student learning and retention to determine if there is any clear benefit to paperless classes as opposed to traditional classes. Secondly, to gauge whether eBooks and eBook readers function well in the modern classroom and recognize if they offer a cost-effective friendly substitute for traditional textbooks. Thirdly, to work with HCC and other institutions’ efforts to create the beginnings of digital teaching and learning materials in an eBook format accessible to all students and faculty.
Houston Community College understands the wave of the future and strives to continuously be on the forefront of technological advances.
HCC is an open-admission, public institution of higher learning offering associate degrees, certificates, academic preparation, workforce training and lifelong learning opportunities that prepare individuals in our diverse communities for living and working in an increasingly international and technological society. HCC is composed of six colleges serving Houston and surrounding areas.