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The use of tablets and apps in higher education is rapidly growing. According to a study by Pearson Education conducted at the beginning of 2012, 70 percent of college students have read an electronic book, and the majority — 58 percent — now prefer reading electronic textbooks to print. Since 2011, tablet adoption has tripled, and more than one-third of all college-aged students say they plan to purchase a tablet device in the next six months. 

Textbooks 2.0
What seems to be attracting both students and educators is the interactive nature of electronic content. Electronic textbooks take education beyond the printed page with features like audio or video files embedded in the text. In addition, students can link to online sites for additional reading, and they can connect and share ideas and notes with their peers through social networking sites.

The latest cloud-based tools and apps extend the educational benefits even further. For example, the Blackboard mobile app connects students to online course content, and storage solutions like Dropbox allow students to easily share files with each other and their instructors. iStudiez helps students plan and organize their homework and study schedules.

Benefits without backaches
Besides providing interactive features, the easy portability of tablet devices is an obvious advantage over carting heavy backpacks around campus. Many instructors also point out that tablets provide easier ways for students to move into workgroups without having to integrate furniture designed to support textbooks.  

Will tablets take over education as we know it? According to responses to the Pearson survey, the answer is yes. Sixty-three percent of students believe electronic textbooks will replace print by 2016. Some universities, such as Indiana University and the University of California-Berkeley, have begun to push the trend of electronic adoption by requiring e-textbook use in certain classes.

Tools for the younger generation
Tablets are becoming increasingly popular among K-12 students and educators, too. Videoconferencing provides a unique opportunity for younger students to interact with their peers or experts around the globe. Best of all, tablets allow educators to better manage students with unique needs. Advanced students can be directed toward self-study, while students with challenges or special needs can benefit from the visual aspects of electronic learning.

Still working out the kinks
Even though the e-text trend is strong, all-campus adoption isn’t without its hitches. In the spring semester of 2012, an eTextbook pilot program was launched by the provosts at the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC). The program was designed to encourage eBook use instead of printed texts, with the goal of saving students money.

Indiana University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota, Cornell University, and the University of Virginia joined the pilot and evaluation. In January, the program was initiated through a partnership with Internet2, McGraw‐Hill, and Courseload, an eBook broker. The participating universities purchased eBooks in bulk and required students to use them, charging a simple materials fee to offset the cost of the texts.

Although implementation of the program was successful (only 12 percent of students bought a print version of the required books), reaction from students and professors was mixed. Many students were still unfamiliar with eBooks and thought they were clumsy to navigate, and professors made only limited use of interactive features.

However, students were happy about saving money, and the program is rolling forward, with 24 universities slated to participate this fall.

Even with some mixed reactions, the trend toward widespread tablet use in the classroom is well underway. Forward-looking publishers can now plan on making electronic editions of textbooks part of their business plans.

Sheridan Books specializes in helping you roll out the right print, electronic, or hybrid strategy that best serves your readers and your market. Contact your Sheridan Books representative to learn more.