Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview with Jill Ambrose, CourseSmart: Innovators in E-Learning Series

E-textbooks and other digital assets have become extremely important in the world of textbooks. The texts are evolving quickly, in both the way that they are delivered and in the kinds of instructional activities, materials, and collaborations that are included.

Welcome to an interview with Jill Ambrose, Chief Marketing Officer at CourseSmart.

1. What is your name and your relation to e-learning?
Jill Ambrose, chief marketing officer at CourseSmart, the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and digital course materials. CourseSmart believes in anywhere, anytime access of course materials for everyone. Therefore CourseSmart enables and supports access to e-learning.

Jill Ambrose, CourseSmart

2. What are some of the latest trends in e-learning?
I would say the two biggest trends in e-learning right now are the push towards mobile access and learning as well as interactive course materials that improve learning outcomes.

With today’s students being more tech savvy and taking their college learning experiences beyond just the classroom, mobile access to e-learning tools has become increasingly important. CourseSmart has been committed to meeting the growing mobile needs of today’s students, and just this year, we led the industry in mobile innovations by introducing the first eReader app for Android™-based devices which joined our other industry firsts – the iPhone® and iPad® apps, launched in 2009 and 2010, respectively. We also launched an HTML5 single platform reader (another industry first) allowing users to access digital course materials online, offline or on mobile devices. And earlier this summer, CourseSmart launched the industry’s first social commerce tab on Facebook, giving students unprecedented access to eTextbooks through a site where they already spend a lot of their time.

CourseSmart is the only digital course provider that offers eResources from multiple publishers. eResources are highly engaging and interactive learning products that make faculty teaching more effective and student learning more engaging by providing immediate feedback to the student to ensure comprehension of key learnings. eResources include an automated, integrated grading system that provides real-time feedback to ensure comprehension of key learnings by the user.

It’s not just about what’s “fun and interesting” in their eTextbooks, but rather, it’s what truly helps students with learning and ultimately the comprehension of that learning experience.
All eResources are not alike but many include quizzes, tutorials, interactive exercises, videos, links to other websites and the digital text.

3. How have digital textbooks changed over the last 5 years?
First off, the content has not changed. Availability and how you interact with the content is where there have been dramatic increases.

Regarding availability, digital course materials and eTextbooks are now available through multiple channels; online, through some Publishers and the campus bookstore. The sheer volume of the CourseSmart catalog of eTextbooks continues to grow everyday and currently includes more than 20,000 eTextbooks which represents 90% of all core higher education textbooks in use today.

How you interact with the content has also changed. Mobile access is a big shift in the last few years with the increase of smartphone and tablet usage as well as emerging mobile app technology. At CourseSmart alone, almost one third of all users (faculty and students alike) prefer to read their materials on a tablet rather than on a computer. Product features have also improved significantly, as CourseSmart has continued to listen to consumer feedback, adapting our features to meet the changing needs of students. This includes improved highlighting and note-taking functionality, the ability to cut and paste sections of text, email select content to classmates, etc.

4. What do you see as some of the main trends in cloud-based digital texts?
An important element that CourseSmart recognizes in the use of digital texts is the ability to access texts when needed, without limiting storage to only one device or access through multiple devices, as well as creating the ability to synchronize notes and highlights when you are working between computers and devices. This is where the case for cloud-based digital textbooks becomes especially relevant to our customers. The availability and portability of cloud-based applications, such as CourseSmart’s library of eTextbooks and digital course materials, means that students and faculty can access the texts and course materials anytime, anywhere. Access is available from any web-enabled device or through one of CourseSmart’s downloadable apps. Our cloud-based model perfectly fits with the on-the-go lifestyle and need for portability without the burden of carrying around heavy textbooks. Even notes on the texts, if entered within CourseSmart’s interface, are portable!

The cloud-based nature of eTextbooks and digital resources also eliminates the need for costly investments in storage and infrastructure by schools and students to store loads of downloaded materials. While CourseSmart eTextbooks and digital course materials can be accessed offline, they remain stored on the cloud, taking advantage of the efficiency of cloud storage.

5. How well do CourseSmart texts integrate with learning management systems?
They integrate extremely well. CourseSmart is dedicated to providing a streamlined teaching and learning experience for faculty and students. CourseSmart Solutions for instructors and institutions can be fully integrated with various learning management systems like Pearson LearningStudio, Blackboard® and Desire2Learn, allowing instructors and students to access their course materials in their current daily workflow. Current solutions may be found at Arizona State University, University of Michigan and Western Governors University to name a few.

6. (Revised) What kinds of multimedia do you typically bundle with an e-text? Do you have standalone audio (mp3 format) that students can download to their portable devices, or do they have to access the e-text through the CourseSmart portal each time they want to watch a video or listen to an audio podcast?
Publishers determine the content that should be offered as an eTextbook or an eResource. The publisher also determines appropriate content that should be bundled with eTextbooks. There are various forms of multimedia used with titles offered by the publishers. Again, these are determined by the publisher. The types of multimedia selected are based on how well they support the concepts being taught.

All of CourseSmart’s eTextbooks are stored within the cloud and are accessible to students and faculty anytime, anywhere via a Web-enabled device connected to the Internet. At this time, only CourseSmart’s non-multimedia content can be accessed offline.

© 2011 CourseSmart, LLC. All rights reserved. CourseSmart® is a registered trademark of CourseSmart, LLC. All other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

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