There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding digital courseware in the world of higher education, and how these digital course materials are already being used effectively in the classroom. Professors and institutions that have chosen to go the digital course materials route are reaping the benefits of more personal connections with their students, increase capacity for interactivity in the classroom and greater capacity for collaboration between students. Here, we debunk the top 4 myths about digital courseware and demonstrate why the switch from print textbooks is long overdue.

Myth: Digital textbooks are a distraction in today’s classroom

Today’s college students are members of Generation Z. They are collaborative, open-minded and have been surrounded by technology from before they could walk – and now they have reached college, with the oldest members of Generation Z having just moved into the workforce. In 2014, 41% of Generation Z spend more than three hours per day using computers for purposes other than schoolwork, compared with 22 percent in 2004. In 2015, an estimated 150,000 apps were educational and aimed at children up to and including college level.

More to the point, Generation Z has been attached to technology than any previous generation. All of Gen Z’s entertainment, news and socialization happens online, and in order to be most effective at engaging today’s students, learning materials need to be online as well.

Myth: There isn’t a sufficient amount of learning material in digital interactive textbooks

Due to the flexible and agile nature of online content, digital textbooks contain far more current and accurate material than their print counterparts. This eliminates the need for expensive new editions of textbooks. With digital course materials, textbook authors can make changes to course content online and have updates reflected in these digital materials immediately.

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All disciplines, especially history and science, must be updated with new information to remain current and valuable to students. However, traditional print textbooks lack the ability to keep up with changing information and the revision cycle in creating updated editions often takes up to a year. And the problem doesn’t go away with a PDF, or “flat” textbook, even a digital textbooks have the same issues if they are rarely updated.

Myth: Digital interactive textbooks are expensive

The average college student studying at an American higher education institution spends $1,200 per year on textbooks and course supplies. More than 5 million college students have taken out loans to purchase course materials. The vast majority of professors and instructors agree: 9 out of 10 professors think the cost of textbooks is too high. With lower production and distribution costs and an abundance of low-cost material, digital textbooks pose a much more affordable option.

As the cost of textbooks increase but average wages stagnate, more and more students are turning to full-time work as a means to offset the cost of their education. Further, the typical college student is no longer the stereotypical 18-year-old who lives in a dorm, works a part-time job for extra spending money and graduates in four or five years. Nearly fifty percent of today’s college students are age 25 or older, more than half work thirty-five hours or more a week and nearly a third have their own children.

For the current college generation, a traditional textbook, whether print or flat digital, serves as a hindrance and a deterrent from learning if it isn’t available digitally and on demand.

Myth: Using computers and personal devices detracts from learning

Using tech in the classroom allows for agile teaching. Agile teaching allows for active learning. And active learning needs on-the-fly course correction and individualized learning experiences. Digital textbooks with embedded comprehension-testing questions give prompt feedback on what students are understanding and where they need more assistance. Traditional textbooks force professors to stay on script, with little variation, due to the lack of in-the-moment insight on how students are understanding course material.

Andrew Petto, former Distinguished Lecturer Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, says that with a set of learning objectives and an initial plan, in-class questions and “course correction” is an important tool for active learning. “Synchronous assessments give us ‘fixes’ on the position and direction for our class at that point in time,” Petto says. “They allow small adjustments near the time when students veer off course, instead of bigger adjustments that might be required if assessments waited until a major exam.”

Using computers and personal devices in the classroom adds to learning, and allows for a more flexible approach to education than previous print iterations of similar content. The interactive digital medium in which educational material is delivered creates a more personal and more fine-tuned learning experience.

The most effective way to benefit from the powers of digital interactive courseware is to implement them in active learning processes. Click here to learn more.

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