Instructors invited to apply for electronic textbook pilot this fall

Instructors who are selected to participate in an electronic textbook (eText) experiment on campus this fall will earn free electronic textbooks for their students and likely gain insights into the feasibility of offering course materials in this electronic format.

Iowa State is among 50 universities participating in an eTexts pilot program this fall. This pilot was inspired by an electronic textbook initiative begun at Indiana University in 2009 and adopted this spring by five more universities (University of California, Berkeley; Cornell University; University of Minnesota; University of Virginia; and University of Wisconsin).

More info

See eTexts at ISU.

Now, two national organizations devoted to information technology in higher education, Internet2 and EDUCAUSE, have expanded the scope of the electronic textbook study to involve 50 universitites, including Iowa State and the University of Iowa.

"While there are many electronic textbook pilots under way, this is probably one of the few that are not being conducted by publishers or vendors," said Jim Twetten, academic technologies director. "Educause and Internet2 really are trying to do something here to help institutions figure this out. We're pleased to be a part of this study and expect to learn a lot."

Universities involved in the pilot will help assess the effects of electronic textbooks on student learning and explore potential new business models, Twetten said.

Iowa State will pay a $20,000 participation fee, which entitles the university to include up to 20 course sections or 800 students in the fall pilot program. There will be no cost to participating departments or students. Funding, which will go to offset the costs of the eTexts and eReader, is being provided by IT Services, as part of its ongoing emerging technology explorations.

About the eTexts

Students in the pilot will access their electronic textbooks using Courseload's eReader/annotation software.  The eReader will be integrated with Iowa State's Blackboard Learn management system and works on just about every device with a browser, including most of those that run Windows, Mac OS X, iOS or Android. Students may print part or all of the eTexts, or for a small fee, obtain copies from a third-party, print-on-demand service.

Selecting participants

Twetten said a group representing many organizations on campus, including the University Book Store (UBS), will oversee the semester-long pilot and its impact on the users, as well as campus processes.  A portion of that group will help select courses for the pilot.

"We hope to end up with an assortment of smaller and larger courses, with breadth across disciplines," he said.

Instructors who apply for the pilot must be willing to:

  • Be part of a national survey on electronic textbook use
  • Use one of the McGraw Hill eTexts that are designated for the pilot. "There's a large list of designated eTexts," Twetten said, "so if you're already using a McGraw Hill textbook, chances are good it's on the list."

Twetten said those who have already submitted textbook information to the UBS should let him know when applying for the pilot. The eText pilot project team will need to check with the UBS textbook department to determine if it's feasible to include that course in the pilot, he added.

How to apply for the pilot

Those who'd like to be considered for the pilot should send an email to Twetten (