Guest Post: The State of Interactive Textbooks

Today’s guest post is by Alia Gray. Alia is an Associate at TriplePoint PR. She graduated from California State University, Chico in May 2012 with a degree in journalism and public relations. She discusses the changes occurring in textbook publishing and what’s in store for future generations of students. 

As one traditional publication after another goes digital, there remains an extremely profitable industry that hasn’t been successfully tapped into as of yet: digital, interactive textbooks. Early e-textbooks have emerged over the past few years but still have not reached widespread adoption.

One initial challenge was that early versions were not very advanced. Sure, there are readily available digital versions of traditional textbooks, but more often than not, they are mere copies of the same text in a PDF format. In a world where many students still enjoy the physicality of holding a book, straight digital copies without useful or effective features that take advantage of the digital format are not necessarily an enticing or reasonable option.

Interactive textbooks exist, and are improving and becoming more widespread thanks to advancements from companies like Inkling and Apple, but the educational world has yet to largely adopt e-textbooks. These interactive textbooks offer a plethora of features designed to enhance learning experiences such as: audio and video capabilities, study group social networking, quizzes, study guides and more.

A New Classroom 

This new use of technology could change the way students engage. So what still needs to happen for e-textbooks to take off successfully?

Perhaps one of the interactive textbook’s hurdles lies within the title itself. Interactive textbooks add to the learning experience in a way that the traditional textbook cannot. In this case, is the association with the language of ‘textbook’ too strong? These programs are meant to serve as interactive learning experiences first and foremost, backed by the information of a traditional textbook.

They are an innovative approach to education, but the language of the title may not convey that. Perhaps interactive textbooks don’t need the actual word ‘textbook’ in the title.

The adoption of an interactive learning environment is worth considering as well. Oftentimes curriculum is largely based on the chosen text materials on the professor’s end. In this case, changing the text so drastically means a shift in the way that the classroom operates as a whole. If the interactive features are truly taken advantage of, the traditional learning experience will shift as well.

The Digital Divide

Another obstacle of widespread adoption is the digital divide, which is the disparity between those who own or have access to necessary devices, and those who do not, or cannot afford them.

This is a central issue to adoption of interactive textbooks throughout an entire classroom. One of the more alluring aspects of interactive textbooks is the ability to download and access them through devices, like tablets or computers. It’s convenient, compact and modern.

Though device ownership has become more widespread, the issue of the digital divide is still relevant. To those who already own a device to host the interactive textbooks, the price point of these “textbooks” is much lower. But educators still cannot expect all students to have access to a device.

Interactive textbooks have an array of services to offer education, but need help convincing the greater world of education to make the switch first. Will classrooms become more interactive overall? Will schools find the funding for and then purchase more devices for classroom use to reduce the digital divide? It remains to be seen, and these are both relevant questions publishers need to ask themselves, whose answers may bring interactive textbooks into a more widely adopted reality.

Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.

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About Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.