It is becoming increasingly clear that students want and need to use mobile devices as a supplement to their print and e-textbooks and LMS course platforms. In fact, many students prefer reading on mobile. Students are leading the market to mobile, and publishers are following. Some authors are working to adapt existing materials to the mobile platform, but in many cases the publisher adapts the material with little or no author input. Authors have a vested interest in keeping up with this transition in terms of the technology opportunities, content quality control, and enhanced marketability of their works.
Are textbooks merging with online courses? Will textbook content increasingly be delivered in the form of digital modules that can…
For 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.
“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.
What 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.