Free eTextbooks for Impacted Students

RedShelf, an edtech company that distributes digital course materials and provides an end-to-end platform for efficiently delivering those materials to students, today announced that it has collaborated with its publishing partners to offer free access to eBooks to tens of thousands of students impacted by recent campus closings nationwide.

“We have always believed in the enormous impact that digital course materials can have on affordability, access, and outcomes in higher education,” said Greg Fenton, CEO and co-founder of RedShelf. “That impact has become even more pronounced as the entire academic community grapples with COVID-19, especially for those institutions working to quickly move many or all of their courses online.”

As the COVID-19 outbreak escalated in recent weeks, countless campuses have moved their on-ground courses to an online format and, in many cases, have asked students to leave campus altogether. Many of those students simply can’t access previously-purchased materials now locked in their dorm rooms.…Read More

Follett acquires ClassBook

Deal aims to create ‘best-in-class solution for private and parochial schools’

Follett announced it has acquired ClassBook, a K-12 education online bookstore that serve schools, teachers, parents, and students. ClassBook provides private and parochial schools with 24/7 bookstores, streamlining and personalizing the ordering and fulfillment process for print and digital textbooks.

The acquisition combines Follett’s publisher relationships, infrastructure, and resources with ClassBook’s digital services, with the combined entity steadfast in its focus on delivering high-touch customer service.

Follett accesses, curates and delivers content to schools from a network of more than 7,000 publishers and education-service providers. ClassBook provides and manages access to eBooks and eTextbooks through proprietary digital tools, including the “Virtual Backpack” app, which allows students to manage access through a single virtual bookshelf.…Read More

Creating your own eTextbooks for Common Core

Creating eTextbooks might be easier than you think.

In an effort to save schools and districts money that’s often spent on outdated textbooks, many of which are not aligned with the Common Core State Standards, innovative educators and administrators are using online resources to create customized eTextbooks.In a recent webinar, “Create Your Own Textbooks for the Common Core,” Nicole Rothbauer, an intervention specialist for Salem City Schools in Ohio, detailed how her district didn’t want to spend money on old textbooks that didn’t reflect the Common Core State Standards.

“Common Core really pushes students to build a deeper understanding of content and effectively apply learning within and across disciplines,” she said. “It was time to take action.”

(Next page: Administrative support and first steps)…Read More

eTextbooks: Never mind iPad and eReaders, PCs still dominant

There are many benefits to students accessing their textbooks electronically, such as shared highlights and search capabilities. Surprisingly, though, it’s not the iPad and other eReaders that are driving the eTextbook market, but PCs and netbooks, ReadWriteWeb reports. The iPhone and Android are making some inroads in the digital textbook market, however. Isabella Hinds is director of digital content at Follett Higher Education Group, which runs more than 800 college bookstores in the U.S. It also owns a digital textbook program called CafeScribe, used by more than 400 education institutions. Hinds said CafeScribe is mostly used on PCs, Macs, and netbooks. She cited pricing issues for the iPad (students can’t afford them) and the relative lack of functionality in current eReaders. Specifically, she cited color, pagination, and illustration as features that the current crop of eReaders don’t do well enough for the eTextbook market. A study in May by OnCampus Research showed that 74 percent of students still prefer to use a printed textbook when taking a class…

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Florida high school trading textbooks for eReader devices

Clearwater High School next year will replace traditional textbooks with eReader devices, reports the St. Petersburg Times. The gadgets will be fully loaded with all the textbooks students need, minus all the paper. For rising junior Bennie Niles, 17, it could mean accessing English, math, and physics texts via a handheld device more on par with the technology he and his peers use every day. Though the school hasn’t settled on a vendor, school officials are negotiating with Amazon to equip all 2,100 students with the 10-ounce Kindle devices this fall. Already, the school has issued eReaders to all 100 of its teachers. Clearwater could be the first public high school attempting such a sweeping shift with the Kindle. Schools elsewhere have used eReaders, but mostly on a per-class basis. A Massachusetts boarding school recently made waves by completely digitizing its library. Principal Keith Mastorides said he was inspired to make the switch earlier this school year after campus surveys revealed a desire to integrate more technology with classroom instruction. “When you think about students today, three-quarters of their day is spent on some kind of electronic device,” Mastorides said. “We’re just looking at textbooks a little differently.”

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McGraw-Hill moves beyond electronic textbooks, but obstacles remain

McGraw-Hill Cos.’ McGraw Hill Education unit is venturing further into digital learning with the release of a new internet-based elementary-school reading program, reports the Wall Street Journal. At least, it will try to do this. The unit, whose textbooks and other learning materials provide about 40 percent of the parent company’s revenue, is launching its LEAD21 literacy curriculum in partnership with Intel Corp., offering the materials on the chip maker’s “Classmate” personal computer, built specifically for elementary-school students. The Wi-Fi enabled devices are waterproof and vaguely resemble toys. But with schools strapped for cash and teachers still hesitant about digital devices after some e-readers came up short for educational purposes, the companies could face an uphill battle. “You want all the bells and whistles, but the schools tend to be not all that sophisticated,” said Peter Appert, a Piper Jaffray analyst who covers McGraw-Hill. While digital textbooks are generally cheaper than their hard-copy counterparts, the up-front costs of supplying devices for an entire school or district can be prohibitive…

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Open courseware gains momentum

Open-source courseware could change the way students learn.
Open courseware could change the way students learn, proponents say.

For years, tech-savvy educators and product developers have pushed for more open educational resources in classrooms as a way not only to engage students through technology, but also to save money in a time of tighter budgets. But does using open courseware really make a difference in spending?

Texas State Representative Scott Hochberg thinks so. He sponsored a bill that provides for the adoption and use of open-source textbooks in the state, beginning Sept. 1, 2010, by creating a digital repository of textbook content that will be managed by the Texas Education Association. This move, he says, will save the state at least $250 million a year.

“We were due to spend about $225 million to replace the grades six through 12 literature books in the state. We can buy the content for under $20 million,” he said. “Someplace between $20 million and $225 million, there’s a cost savings.”…Read More