Monthly Archives: December 2010

Open Source Tutorial Tools

The new LLRX has a short piece on open source tools for screen shots, screen casts and video editing.

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Student Demand for E-Textbook Formats

An instructor for a Winter session course has adopted a textbook that is also available from the publisher in several e-formats. I want to work with students in the course who are interested in using e-readers to learn from their experience so that we can design services to support wider adoption. I asked the 75 students who have already registered for the course the question below. So far, 54 students have responded:

I want my textbook to be (check all that apply):

1. An e-book loaded onto my iPad, SonyReader, Entourage Edge, or Kno. = 11 (20% of the respondents chose this format)

2. A PDF file that I would read on my computer or laptop. = 34 (63%)

3. An e-book loaded onto my Kindle. = 10 (19%)

4. A group of Web pages that I can access from my computer or laptop. = 27 (50%)

5. ONLY a printed, paper book. (Do not check this if you checked any of the above.) = 15 (28%)

I am disappointed that more than one-quarter of the respondents want no e-book option at all. The large number of responses in favor of PDF could indicate an interest in simply printing out out the book using the student printing allocation. I am pleased by the variety of formats that at least some students were willing to use. There is probably enough interest for us to work with the class. If that occurs I will share more information about the course and how the e-book will be used.

Update: Based on the responses to the survey the BCTC will run a test with this class to determine what technical support from us is needed for students to work with textbooks in these digital formats. We will also document their experience working with them. Today the students will receive a message from me indicating that on the first day of class they will get a code to access all the digital formats at no charge, including the ancillaries to the textbook. They will also be able to purchase a print copy of the textbook from the Baruch College bookstore or directly from the publisher at the list price.

Update: At the end of the Winter session we administered a survey to the 84 students who completed the course.  Here are the key findings:

  • One-third of the students opted to use only digital formats and reported not printing any pages from the textbook.
  • 55% of the students required no assistance with downloading and using the digital content.  The students who did require assistance rated the support from BCTC and publisher very highly.
  • Three-quarters of the students reported that this experience increased their interest in using an e-textbook in their other courses.   18% said that it  had no effect.  Several students reported that their interest decreased, but their answers to other questions indicates that they did not use the digital formats.
  • The average  number of formats used by students was 1.86 out of a possible 5 formats, including print. The highest number reported was 4.  Students used the formats for different purposes and different situations.  For example, PDF or Kindle when on a subway and or when Web access was not available.
  • Students liked: accessibility, convenience, ancillaries (flashcards, quizzes), not having to carry and risk losing a textbook, using chapters at a time, and helping the environment.
  • Students disliked: not being able to annotate, the absence of an active table of contents in one format, download time for PDF files, not being able to load onto a smartphone, and eye strain.
  • The free access to the digital files in this project contributed greatly to the positive experience.

Anticipated vs. Actual Use of Formats

Prior to the start of classes we measured interest among the students by polling them about their anticipated use of each format (see above, n=54).  We repeated that question in the exit survey (n=84) and the students’ reported use of formats is compared with their anticipated use below.

1. An e-book loaded onto my iPad, SonyReader, Entourage Edge, or Kno. = (20% anticipated vs. 5% actual)

2. A PDF file that I would read on my computer or laptop. = (63% anticipated vs. 66% actual)

3. An e-book loaded onto my Kindle. = (19% anticipated vs. 6% actual)

4. A group of Web pages that I can access from my computer or laptop. = (50% anticipated vs. 30% actual)

5. ONLY a printed, paper book. (Do not check this if you checked any of the above.) = (28% anticipated vs. 11% actual)

The publisher reported 32 downloads of the textbook in ePub format (38%) and 22 downloads of .mobi files (26%).

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Keeping Up with Wikileaks

If you’re trying to get a quick sense of the fast moving story of Wikileaks in the past week or so, this roundup of links to news stories and blog posts offers a great place to start.

Baio, Andy. “Wikileaks Cablegate Roundup.” 3 Dec. 2010. Web. 3 Dec. 2010. [link]

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The Social Network and Our LIB Courses

In light of the great, informal conversation in Randy’s office today about using films in our credit courses, I thought I’d make a pitch for screening The Social Network and for a few interesting angles to employ when discussing the film in class. First, there is an interesting debate about intellectual property that can come out of the movie. Did Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg actually “steal” anything from his colleagues at Harvard that he worked with early on? Were the lawsuits that embroiled Zuckerberg based on valid complaints? In a really interesting review of the movie, legal scholar Lawrence Lessig condemns the lawsuits between Zuckerberg and his Harvard colleagues who accused him of stealing their ideas:

Did he steal a trade secret? Absolutely not. Did he steal any other “property”? Absolutely not—the code for Facebook was his, and the “idea” of a social network is not a patent. It wasn’t justice that gave the twins $65 million; it was the fear of a random and inefficient system of law. That system is a tax on innovation and creativity. That tax is the real villain here, not the innovator it burdened.

In his review, Lessig then goes on to critique the movie for missing what he sees as the most important aspect of the story of Facebook’s phenomenal growth: Zuckerberg didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to create this site on the web, which in less than 6 years has grown to have nearly half a billion users. Lessig argues that the creators of “The Social Network” seemed oblivious to the way that Facebook magnificently embodies the idea that the web has democratized innovation:

Because the platform of the Internet is open and free, or in the language of the day, because it is a “neutral network,” a billion Mark Zuckerbergs have the opportunity to invent for the platform. And though there are crucial partners who are essential to bring the product to market, the cost of proving viability on this platform has dropped dramatically.

As Lessig points out, those watching this movie should wonder how the network neutrality debates playing out right now might lead to changes on the internet that would make it much more difficult for a future Mark Zuckerberg to innovate on the web.

Lessig, Lawrence. “Sorkin vs. Zuckerberg.” The New Republic, 1 Oct. 2010. Web. 3 Dec. 2010. [link]

The Social Network – Official Site. 2010. Web. 3 Dec. 2010. [link]

Wu, Tim. “Network Neutrality  FAQ.” Tim Wu. N.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2010. [link]

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