A bulk-purchase pilot program for college textbooks is expanding to 25 schools this fall. The program allows colleges and universities to pay about $35,000 to provide students with e-textbooks, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
The initiative began earlier this year when five colleges partnered with networking group Internet2, e-book broker Courseload, Educase, and McGraw-Hill’s education publishing division to buy e-textbooks and the Courseload platform at a discounted price, Inside Higher Education reported. According to Campus Technology, students will purchase access codes from the school instead of textbooks.
The first five participating universities recently released a report that found students appreciated the lower cost of the e-textbooks, but found the Courseload interface hard to navigate, with the primary difficulty being searching within the text Students also thought the interface was lacking native functionality on mobile devices,such as phones and tablets. Professors noted a lack of training on how to best utilize the collaborative features, such as note sharing or including additional links.
Concerns were also raised about the program’s compliance with the American with Disabilities Act and the accessibility of e-books for students with special needs and other accommodation issues, reported Campus Technology. One of the main issues reviewers found was the way Courseload rendered the book. Instead of a native text document, the pages were presented as a PDF—which used images of the pages of the book, a process that made the content unusable by most adaptive technologies.
Accessibility issues were cited as the reason for the University of Minnesota’s decision not to renew its participation in the program, with the university’s participating faculty writing that the program could leave the school open to litigation. Despite the problems officials hope that the program will grow to include 50 additional schools by spring semester 2013.
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