How to reimagine and redesign textbooks to reach and engage students

elearningAre textbooks merging with online courses? Will textbook content increasingly be delivered in the form of digital modules that can be integrated into course learning systems? What does this mean for textbook authors and editors? How should textbook content be designed to work best in online learning environments?

Since 2009, I have been working in dual roles, and I’ve witnessed a transition that has moved faster than anyone anticipated. As a long-time development editor, and now author, in the textbook industry, I have watched a rapid transition from print to digital publishing models. Most of the major commercial textbook publishers have passed the point at which more than half of their sales revenue is coming from digital products. By no means is print dead when it comes to textbooks, but print texts certainly inhabit a changed landscape. [Read more…]

Developing a mobile textbook: A case study in collaborative authoring

Mobile textbookFor the past two years, I have been exploring ways to make educational materials accessible to students on mobile phones. In my online courses, for example, I have moved away from Blackboard, which is not well designed for mobile users. Much of my course content now lives instead on websites I have built with Weebly or Google Sites. These platforms provide responsive templates that work well for students on any size screen. While grades, administrative announcements, and discussions still take place on Blackboard (which is institutionally mandated and required for FERPA compliance), the majority of the text, audio, and video content for the courses is now housed on fully responsive sites outside of the LMS. Students can access the course materials from their phones at any time, without needing to log in to the cumbersome LMS system. More than half of my students now report that they do most of their course reading on their phones. [Read more…]

How educators and textbook authors can make learning mobile

mobile education“Next stop, mobile apps!”—that was the title of a webinar I attended last week, presented by one of the major textbook publishers. Like most educators, I’m skeptical about technology-driven claims made about mobile apps or other tools. Technology should serve learning, not drive it. Students and instructors should be supported in using the most appropriate and accessible tools and technologies for a given situation. Newer is not necessarily better.

At the same time, I recognize that it is vital to connect with students where they live, and to design learning experiences that work for them. [Read more…]

The textbook of the future: What will it look like?

Future of the TextbookWhat does the textbook of the future look like? I asked my students to explore this question, and their answers will surprise and, perhaps, inspire today’s textbook authors.

I teach a course called “The Technology of the Book: Past, Present, and Future.” It’s an online course, part of the MA in professional and technical writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. For the final project, we did a little role-playing. As a group, we became Learning Futures, a start-up company whose mission is to re-invent the textbook. Students worked in groups—we had a content team, a user experience team, and a marketing team. Each group was charged with identifying core issues and problems in the current textbook model, and asked to develop and design solutions to those problems. In short, we set out to invent the textbook of the future. [Read more…]