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Internet2, Educause To Launch E-Textbook Pilot in the Fall

Educause and Internet2 have launched a new pilot program intended to give universities and colleges nationwide the chance to explore and evaluate digital educational materials, such as e-textbooks, from more than 50 providers, including Courseload, CourseSmart, and McGraw-Hill Education. The pilot program will take place in fall 2013 and will be the fourth one in the series. The research report from the spring 2012 pilot is already available; research on the fall 2012 pilot is underway, and the spring 2013 pilot is currently in progress.

Educational institutions interested in participating in the fall 2013 pilot program should attend a webinar on Monday, March 4, at 3 p.m. Eastern and must apply for the program by Friday, March 8.

Educause and Internet2 have two main goals for the program. They want to help the higher education community learn more about digital educational materials and how they can be more effective, accessible, and economical than traditional textbooks. The organizations also want to explore new business models for digital materials that are advantageous for both the educational institutions and the publishers.

"Questions we are asking include, what will the evolving landscape look like in the e-content space? How can designs that previously focused on working with the publishing author or faculty member add institutional and student needs into the e-content design? How can cloud based services interoperate with campus systems and students' unique device needs?" said Shelton Waggener, senior vice president of Internet2, in a prepared statement.

Each pilot program expands on its predecessors, and the fall 2013 pilot will include "all new experimental platforms direct from McGraw Hill; a new version of software from Courseload that has new features and reflects continued progress on Courseload's public commitment to accessibility; and a CourseSmart pilot that tests new business models," said Rodney Petersen, managing director of Educause's Washington office, in a prepared statement.

The new version of Courseload's vendor-neutral reader and annotation software is noteworthy because participants in previous pilot programs experienced problems with accessibility for students with disabilities. The University of Minnesota, one of only four universities that participated in the inaugural pilot, opted out of the fall 2012 program due to accessibility problems with Courseload. The university discovered that Courseload rendered e-textbooks as graphic PDF files, rather than text, which made the book unreadable by most adaptive technologies. The university considered the accessibility issues severe enough to put them at risk of litigation and consequently decided not to participate in the second pilot.

Another change with the fall 2013 pilot program is the addition of the Faculty Instant Access program, which provides faculty, instructors, and staff with "free, unlimited, and universal access to the CourseSmart catalog through integration with the institution's learning management system," according to Sean Devine, CEO of CourseSmart.

According to Mickey Levitan, CEO of Courseload, these pilots give educational institutions an easy way to experiment with solutions for digital course materials. "Given the rapid move to digital in music, video, and recreational reading, there is broad agreement that higher education is not far behind," he said in a prepared statement.

Further information about the Educause-Internet2 fall 2013 pilot program can be found at

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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