Old habits in the age of digital education

With the increasing popularity of e-books and tablets, book bags may become a thing of the past. But don’t throw away those college book bags just yet; they’re good for carrying other items besides books. In an age where online degrees are rising in popularity and prevalence, old habits may not die quickly — but they could be on their way out.

Changes in technology
The college experience has a few, well known commonalities. Late night cram sessions and cheap meals are both shared memories among graduates, but the outrage at textbook prices just might span generations.

With recent changes among publishers, however, the price a student has to pay for a textbook has become quite flexible. With the advent of digital textbooks and the popularity of readers including Kindle and the iPad, text book publishers have responded, perhaps reluctantly at first, to the inevitable changes in the marketplace. Today, a student can use a smartphone app like CourseSmart or go to Amazon and rent their textbooks for savings of as much as eighty percent over bound text books. The shift in how students access course materials mirrors a similar shift in the ways students access education.

Education online
Today, over one in three college students take all or part of their courses over the internet. Even the most storied brick and mortar universities have comprehensive e-learning programs. For working professionals, online colleges have opened up means of advancement that scheduling alone would have blocked a few years ago. Technology has literally changed how education looks, and for students of today – the bottom-line market for both universities and publishers – the way something looks can’t be underestimated. For publishers, this might create a strange dilemma.

We love what we know
Digital textbooks create an opportunity for college students to save in one area and perhaps spend in another more interesting outlet. So why are many students eschewing digital textbooks? The answer is that, for now, those entering college have had a lifetime of holding, carrying and reading bound books. It’s as simple as that. With most elementary through secondary schools just now incorporating computer technology as a large portion of their instructional delivery method, textbook technology is still years away. As schools can also benefit from digital textbook savings when they have the technology and adequate funding for such items as iPads and e-readers, the financial savings alone will drive the shift from hard textbooks. At that time, the first cohorts of students used to digital textbooks will begin making their collective ways to college. For now college students still have a deep attachment to hard cover books. They want to know that they can keep their textbooks years after they’ve graduated. You know, like you and I did.

This is a guest post by Lindsey Mac, who writes regularly for Professional Intern and other publications on topics such as education and technology. You can follow her on Twitter @HarperMac11.

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