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Northwest and McGraw-Hill Conduct Major eBook Trial

A large public university e-text research trial is currently being conducted by Northwest Missouri State University and McGraw-Hill Education. The purpose of the test is to examine the potential for replacing students' printed textbooks with electronic versions. The preliminary phase of this study ended in December 2008 and involved four classes and about 200 students. This second phase involves 10 departments and 500 students. Initial results are expected by mid-April 2009.

"As we look ahead to the university's ever-growing operational costs, especially in today's challenging economic environment, we see ebooks as a proactive solution to address the considerable expense associated with higher education," said Dean Hubbard, Northwest's president. In a statement, the institution said ebooks typically cost about half as much as traditional printed textbooks.

In the second phase of the pilot program, the students download the McGraw-Hill e-books using VitalSource Bookshelf, an application for reading, managing, and interacting with digital content.

"We will be collecting data and evaluating responses from our students and faculty to determine both their satisfaction with the ebook format and the effectiveness of ebooks as teaching and learning tools," Hubbard said. "In addition, McGraw-Hill is making digital access codes available to up to 3,000 students who are taking courses based on a McGraw-Hill textbook. Those students have the choice of either using a traditional book or downloading the electronic material."

The ebook format allows students to highlight, search contents, share notes with classmates, create personal study guides, and print sections.

Hubbard said that if Northwest should decide to move forward with an ebook-only environment, the substitution of electronic learning materials for printed books could begin as early as fall 2009. Adoption would likely begin with a selected group of courses or disciplines, and additional academic programs would be added until most printed content was replaced by ebooks. The university has 7,000 students.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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