By: Joseph Cacciotti

Larry Weatherdon is project manager of the E-textbook initiative. In the fall, 40 programs will have them.

After its successful pilot launch in January, Algonquin’s e-textbook pilot will give students coming to the College this fall an invaluable collection of online resources available for the first time entirely online.

Having started with 783 students in six programs, over 3600 students across 40 programs will have access to the project come September.

“There will be over 20 000 textbooks and academic resources now available to students,” said Larry Weatherdon, project manager for the e-textbook project with Curriculum Implementation Services.

The development team of the e-textbook pilot is working hard to ensure Algonquin has the best content delivery system available to a post-secondary institution. Accessing information, highlighting, preparing for exams, accessing required readings, even maintaining this access without an internet connection will all be possible. It is available online through blackboard, offline as the e-textbook mobile which is downloadable to most mobile devices and in print on demand at the college print shop. The campus bookstore modified its website to e-textbook pilot students to the print on demand option.

“10 per cent of registered students still have not picked up their textbooks, and we don’t know why,” said Weatherdon.

Publications including Elesvier, Oxford, Wiley, Nelson, Pearson and Mcgraw are participating in the project as partners, committed to help make learning resources available and affordable to Algonquin students.

Teachers and faculty have given good feedback on the pilot and many students are excited to be saving money in the coming year.

“I think it’s excellent that the textbooks will be available for a reduced cost,” said Phil Wakim, first-year business administration student. Wakim still prefers hard copies of course material, though he admits that as the technology develops it e-books will become far more practical and efficient.

“You lose the physical aspect of a book when using an e-book, for example you can’t use sticky notes online.”

A recent survey of over 250 Algonquin students shows strong positive reception to the evolving e-textbook program.

Teachers and faculty have been presented survey results and the team was given good feedback. Common opinion is that the program is different, convenient, and works well with blackboard.

The e-textbook allows students to more easily access information, highlight facts, and prepare for exams. When there is a reading required for an assignment a simple click brings the user straight to the page containing the required reading material. Content copied is automatically cited.

“The e-textbook is good because the material is free, and because of that a great number of people will use it. As an online resource it is good because you can study anywhere; at home, on the bus, in your friend’s house,” said Zhi Lan, student of culinary arts, “A regular textbook is more inconvenient for us as students because of weight and physicality.”

“The College is negotiating with CourseSmart and Vitalsource for a single platform for the fall semester,” said Weatherdon.