E-Texts: Innovation or Status Quo?

Many textbooks now have an e-text version. Do these e-texts improve student learning?

Some advantages:

  • No heavy or bulky textbook to carry; portable
  • Font size can be adjusted so students can more easily read or see information.
  • Text can be searched
  • Often has an online assessment; allows online quizzes to be graded automatically online
  • Often has an online homework management; allows homework activities to be graded automatically online
  • Has organized the content into chapters; chapters have various sections
  • Text can be copied and pasted from the e-text into a word processor
  • Text can usually be highlighted
  • Usually includes multimedia (pictures, video, audio…)

Some disadvantages:

  • Often is an exact reproduction of the textbook. An E-text probably is not linked, therefore, students cannot click on words or images to get additional information.
  • The e-text is still mainly print (word) based.
  • Many images may supplement the text but they do not add new information; images help explain the text instead of the image being the main source of information.
  • Usually a student cannot write in the e-text such as writing comments in the margin
  • The user needs an e-reader, a computer or a mobile device to read the e-text.
  • Additional exercises are predominantly word based.
  • Most e-text homework managers and on-line quizzes only tell the students if they are right or wrong. They do not provide new strategies for learning the material.
  • Since homework and quizzes are done online, the teacher may never review what the students do not know. If the teachers do not review student progress, then the teachers cannot provide formative activities for student improvement.
  • Interactivity may include activities such as moving some words around or rearranging pictures but the e-text interactivity usually lacks high interactivity such as simulations.
  • Additional exercises are still predominantly at a low level of thinking. They do not engage students in real-life use of the learning.
  • Often multimedia is an add-on, rather than an integral part of the basic textbook. Often multimedia comes after the main learning.
  • An e-text cannot be customized; teacher cannot rearrange parts such as combining a part from chapter 1, a part from chapter 3, and a a part from chapter 8 to create a new chapter.
  • The digital textbook can be outdated very quickly if the e-text does not contain links to current events.
  • May not show the learners the priority of the learning concepts within the chapter. What part of the chapter is the most critical? Is the most time and space spent on that critical learning or do minor concepts get equal time and space?
  • E-texts are boring since they are still traditional textbooks.

What are your reactions to using e-texts?

cross-posted at http://eduwithtechn.wordpress.com

Harry Grover Tuttle teaches English and Spanish college courses at Onondaga Community College and blogs at Education with Technology. He is also the author of
several books on formative assessment.