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Demand for Digital Courseware Is Higher Than Supply, Survey Says

As universities clamor for digital materials and tools, the question of how to properly implement them remains.

Now, more than ever, higher education stakeholders believe digital course materials are the key to solving systemwide problems.

A recent Pearson Education survey called “Digital appetite vs. what’s on the table,” found that at least 84 percent of students, teachers and administrators said a shift to digital could help with challenges they face.

About 82 percent of those surveyed also said that digital is the future, but only 56 percent said more than half of their institution’s courses are using some sort of digital courseware.

“In this gap, we see a clear and vast opportunity to transform the classrooms of today, for educators to be key allies in advancing teaching and learning through innovative and research-driven technology, and to ensure that their technology experience in education matches the digital reality that today’s students are embracing in their day-to-day lives,” reads the survey.

Thomas Malek, the vice president for channel partnerships for higher education at Pearson, says that first step in adding more digital tools — like eBooks and platforms such as learning management systems — lies in getting instructors and administrators educated about the options and the demand for more affordable course supplies.

“Institutions need to recognize that affordability issues are real and they are causing students to fail when they can’t get course materials,” says Malek.

Just as higher education itself has gotten more expensive, NBC News reported in 2015 that textbooks had risen about 1,041 percent since 1977. Digital options, like openly licensed textbooks, could save students over $100 per course, a report from the Student Public Interest Research Groups found.

The demand may be there, but what about the devices required to go digital? Well, it seems students are prepared for BYOD.

Out of the 18.6 million students in higher ed, Pearson found that 88 percent own laptops, 85 percent own smartphones and 50 percent own tablets.

If a university is considering rolling out more digital course material options, Malek says it is largely up to the professor to decide what works best for their classes, but administrators can take the lead on pushing everyone forward toward digital options and developing business relationships with digital content creators.

Harnessing the Benefits of Digital Course Materials

If an educator can get 100 percent usage of a digital platform in a class, Malek says the impact can be tremendous due to the data that digital platforms collect.

“On a digital platform, it is easy to hold students accountable for their work,” he says. “Through a homework dashboard, faculty can see what is going on with the learning in their classrooms.”

This data-driven adaptive digital courseware is on the horizon for 2017 and has already been implemented at some universities. EdTech reported on Oregon State University’s success with creating adaptive digital programs in their high-enrollment courses to lower attrition.

A recent study by SRI International found that while early adopters of adaptive courseware found little cost savings and small positive impacts on grades, there were high levels of student and instructor satisfaction in two-year degree programs.

The study also found that, much like all educational tools, the key to success is implementing them into teaching in a meaningful way.

“Researchers should help courseware users understand that learning efficacy is not a trait of a product per se or simply a matter of matching the right product to the right subject matter,” the study reports. “Rather, multiple factors affect learning outcomes.”

Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Thinkstock
Jan 17 2017

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