Textbooks evoke a great deal of ambivalence among instructors. Their expense and back-breaking heft are two sources of concern. More troubling is their tone – too often bland and tedious; their use of language – generally dreary and uninspired; and their content – frequently generic and excessively detailed. These are not books to be read for pleasure. They do not provoke, delight, or inspire.
One unsettling fact about textbooks is that they often structure the course that they are supposed to supplement. Instructors often feel compelled to follow the textbook’s organization. At the same time, textbooks force students to learn along a single, prescribed pathway.
And yet, textbooks serve a function. They reinforce lessons taught in class. They provide practice questions. Students rely on textbooks for reference as they study for exams.
What, then, is the alternative? What might the textbook of the future be like?
One possibility is a digitized version of existing textbooks, supplemented with a wide array of ancillaries – videos, glossaries, quizzes, and links to web resources. These e-textbooks feature highlighting and note-taking tools.
Another possibility is the customized textbook in which instructors draw content from a publisher’s asset vault. A growing number of publishers are unbundling their preexisting textbooks to create self-contained modules.
But there is another possibility, offering far greater potential for enhancing outside the classroom learning: A next generation digital learning experience. It is a learning ecosystem rather than an e-book plus supplements. It will offer:
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