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The Blog on Emerging Academic Technologies


March 2011 Archives

The latest publishing sales figures show a sharp rise in the sales of E-Books at the same time that the total number of book sales on all platforms took a minor hit. In their just released January 2011 sales report, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) noted a 115.8% increase in net sales of e-books from the previous year while overall book sales dropped by 1.9%.

In higher education, one of the pressing questions will be how might this change in reading affect the textbook market? Will students and instructors embrace digital texts? The social learning platform Xplana projects that by the end of 2011, 3% of the total textbook market will be digital and that growth will be explosive over the next five years. By the end of 2016, they expect the total sales of digital textbooks to reach 26% of all new textbooks.

The advent of new reading platforms suggests the possibility to develop new ways of interacting with learning material. While some publishers might simply settle to replicate a print product in a digital form, other more innovative developers might embed assessments or opportunities for reflection within the text. User-controlled multimedia might help students replay presentations or simulate experiments. Books that are built for collaboration might help students jointly annotate a text or read annotations by their own instructor. There are many ways a new textbook could evolve, and let's hope that with such stunning sales figures and projections, publishers and authors seize this moment to reinvent rather than replicate the text.

Academic Honesty Online

"How can you be sure your [online] students aren't cheating?" Michelle Everson, Department of Educational Psychology, a current Faculty Fellow, and a regular contributor to ELearn Magazine, responds to this question in "Academic Honesty and the Online Environment.". One option might be to more closely monitor students when they take exams, but Everson decided to formulate a different set of strategies instead. As you'll see when you read the article, Everson prevents cheating by engaging her students in their learning and with the concept of academic honesty. Another article in this issue of ELearn, Dorothy Mikuska's "Promoting Information Processing and Ethical Use of Information for Online Learning," offers similar solutions for preventing plagiarism. Through student-centered learning and active engagement, both Everson and Mikuska support rather than enforce academic honesty.

(I learned about this article via the Digital Campus Facebook feed, an excellent source of news on education and technology.)

Educational technology consultant Farhad Anklesaria devised an easy, low cost solution for a faculty member who wanted to set up virtual office hours but also needed to go beyond simple chat or instant messaging. As he explains:

It was important that she be able to hand-draw diagrams and write out equations that the remote student could view as they talked. One low-cost solution (proof-of-concept hack?) involves clipping a webcam to a desk lamp, aimed down on a writing pad. Using Skype, writing or diagrams on the page were adequately viewable. A newer webcam such as the Hue HD (, $40), still inexpensive, should yield better images (and lose the DIY flavor).

Click here to see how it's set up