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Western Governors U Taps CourseSmart for E-Textbook Delivery

Western Governors University has gone public with its use of a service that delivers textbooks in digital form to its students through its online learning environment. Starting in April 2011, the institution began integrating CourseSmart's electronic texts into its curriculum. The Salt Lake City-based university is a public, non-profit school founded by 19 states; it currently serves about 26,000 students.

According to Margaret Korosec, manager of learning resources at the university, about 15,000 students have used about 130 distinct e-texts through CourseSmart. She said about half of the institution's 350 courses of study use the new service.

CourseSmart provides a platform for delivering e-textbooks and other digital resources from a number of third-party companies, including Pearson, John Wiley & Sons, McGraw-Hill, and Cengage Learning. At Western Governors U, the cost of the e-texts, including complete textbooks, is included in the tuition and fees charged by the university; if students wish to have a hard copy of a textbook, that's a separate cost.

CourseSmart's e-text features include:

  • The ability to "check out" sections for offline reading;
  • The ability to search and navigate through the table of contents;
  • Pagination that matches hard copy textbooks;
  • The abilities to add notes, highlight text, print pages, and send information to classmates;
  • Reading apps for Apple and Android devices and browser-based mobile reading for other devices.

Students are receiving access to the digital titles included in their courses through their existing university portal accounts. Course mentors, people who work with students during each course, also have access to digital versions of current e-text offerings.

"We are constantly looking for new ways to improve our learning experience and make education more accessible to students by saving them time and reducing their costs," said Korosec. "Integrating with CourseSmart allows us to streamline students' access to their e-textbooks at the moment they need it, eliminating the need for students to purchase a hardcopy textbook, and greatly enhancing their ability to be academically successful."

Educational resources in use at the fully online university already include Web-based tutorials, simulations, learning communities, and blogs, as well as more the traditional forms of communication, including phone, e-mail, instant messaging, and text messaging.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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