The Inevitable Future of Schooling

John Renfrow, Staff Reporter

A cry for a greener future could be the spark in influencing a generation to get behind technological education. Physical textbooks can be a weight in one’s bag, causing strain on a stressed student’s shoulders, and the prices for textbooks could cause students to easily slip into debt. To avoid this kind of debt, among other factors, here are a few of many emerging reasons of why many are supporting the transfer of physical textbooks to electronic platforms, like electronic textbooks.

Electronic textbooks, or E-books, allow students to carry their textbooks on their phone, laptop or any other portable device rather than lug them around like the 20th Century cavemen. These E-books are often packaged with registration fees or included with tuition payments, which allows students have access to E-books the day they enroll in class.

For Emma Buren, a senior business major seasoned with E-book experience, she says convenience is key. According to Buren, E-books come with a slew of benefits that are both eco-friendly and personal.

“I have been in around 10 classes that use E-books, and I always purchase them if I have the option,” Buren said. “It’s just so much easier to have it on my computer or tablet and not have to carry around a heavy book. I’m all about saving those trees as well,” Buren said.

Though distracting at times, Buren said accessing a textbook from an extra tab in the search bar provides pros that outweigh the cons.  She said her E-books provide better note-taking methods than she could produce herself. Criticizing her penmanship, Buren uses a copy-and-paste method to lay out her notes and print them, which allows her to save time.

Although Buren said she has encountered expensive E-books, she said this does not sway her feelings on the subject. She said she’s purchased E-books that can be more or less expensive than a physical textbook.

“I am all for moving to electronic schooling,” said Buren. “It makes it easier for people to learn on their own time. Many people have full-time jobs and do school-work during the evenings or weekends.”

Mark Goodner, business analyst and faculty consultant for all IU eTexts, said the initiative of IU eText is to help faculty and students transition successfully from paper to electronic books. Goodner said IU eText was piloted and designed with four goals in mind: to drive down the cost of digital materials for students, to give faculty access to high-quality materials of choice, to develop new tools in teaching and learning, and to shape the terms of eText models. He said so far, IU eTexts has been successful.

“Since the formal start of the initiative in the summer of 2011, we calculate we have saved students over 13 million off retail price,” Goodner said. “ As we continue, the newest goal is now to continue to grow the program – both in the number of participating publishers, vendors, and partners, and in the number of faculty, students, or classes using at least one ‘IU eTexts’ title.”

This fall term, Goodner said one-third of the entire student body on all campuses,  at least one class, are using  an “eText” title. He said that for students, the familiar worry about textbook cost budgeting is gone, and teachers enjoy the convenience of every student’s universal access to the material on the first day of class. With these factors changing the educational landscape, Goodner says now is the time to learn how to use digital materials or else be left behind.

“The world is changing, already,” Goodner said. “If you take a look down the educational pipeline, you’ll see ever-increasing numbers of elementary schools moving away from physical materials.  In just a few short years, we will be admitting our first students who have never touched a paper textbook. In many professional fields, already, there is little-to-no use of paper. A well-developed and proven tool will quickly become a standard at IU.”

Not all students are completely sold on E-books, but for Meleena Richardson, a sophomore journalism major,  it has been a different experience.

When I first learned that I didn’t have to buy a physical copy, I was actually pretty excited because I didn’t have to pay for that upfront, but [now] I think they affect my learning just because I forget they’re there and I never really read them anymore.” Richardson said. “Even though I should, I find it kind of annoying to go through all the steps of pulling them up and clicking to turn the pages and what not. I would rather a physical textbook.”

Though only having a few classes with E-books, Richardson claims it could also be a generational problem attributed to her lack of attraction to them. She said students of the future will likely benefit from them to a greater degree than current college students, having a greater level of assimilation to them than we do.

“I think that our generation has a little more difficulty with an e-textbook because we grew up with a physical copy basically at all times,” Richardson said . “As the newer generations get more and more technological, I don’t think they’ll have any trouble adjusting. I just think [students today] either hate them or love them and there is little in between.”

The next generation will have to adjust whether they have difficulty or not, seeing the likelihood of electronic means of education grow with each generation passing. Cost efficiency has always remained popular in society, particularly with college students. With an ever-digitizing environment, E-books can only promise to be the growing platform of learning as we know it for the foreseeable future.