The process of sharing information that is useful for education has benefitted a great deal from the trends in technology towards the end of the 20th century. For example, today through the World Wide Web (WWW) thousands of students in different locations are able to attend classes and complete a variety of education programs (Johnson and Maddux 13). In addition to this we have witnessed a large increase in the availability of learning material such as books and journals available to students through a variety of websites. Despite the fact that technology can bring with it additional advantages to the education process there has been a decline in the push towards integration in the recent past (Gura and Percy 149). This is possibly due to the fact that despite the large amount of money invested in the recent past most institutions reported minimal change in performance.
It has been argued that due to this many administrators in education would prefer to see preintegrated technology based resources. An example of such an approach would be the use of software to complement material offered in books by making them more readily available. In this report the discussion presented will focus on a similar approach to the integration of technology in learning. The report will present data on a proposal that will suggest the use of electronic books for courses in an institution in preference to printed books. The discussion will provide information regarding any perceived advantages and disadvantages to the approach. In addition to this the report will suggest means that can be used to make the project implementation possible as well as any other issues that may arise and how these can be handled by the institution.
In its simplest form an electronic book or e-book is an electronic version of a printed book that is read using a pc or any other portable device (Mason and Rennie 98).
These books are made in different formats to suit the needs of different readers. These books provide some additional advantages to the readers in that they include additional material such as audio or video clips not found in printed books. They also make it easy to incorporate and change external resources through hyperlinks thus making them very flexible (Mason and Rennie 98). The e-book has become popular based on the idea of a handheld device for reading that has interested device engineers and science fiction writers for many years. In the search for such a device in 1998 Apple Inc invited university students to attempt to understand of how they thought computing technology would affect education in 2000 (Kovalchick 280). The result was a notebook sized device that contained all the texts the students needed as well as multimedia and communications functions.
Several companies have attempted to achieve this vision and today the market is well populated with a variety of handheld devices. More recently companies such as Adobe have developed reading products such as Acrobat which have eased the access to electronic documents on several different platforms. All these efforts have resulted in an increase in the demand for electronic reading material.
Though e-books are mainly accessed via the internet some institutions have gone a step further to make copies of printed books available to the public domain via websites and on campus library servers. For example, the electronic text center based at the University of Virginia is reported as the first institution to allow the downloading of classic books in the public domain (Kovalchick 282). The project was in keeping with the institution’s priority of making books available to the students. Research statistics from 2002 indicated that almost 13% of libraries were allowing the borrowing of some form of electronic reading material (Kovalchick 284). This position suggests that there is an increasing demand for the material. It also could be taken to point to the fact that a large number of users are likely to benefit from the implementation of this proposal.
Pros of Electronic Books
Among the main advantages of this resource in education is that it allows for rapid circulation and updating of texts at a reasonably low cost (Mason and Rennie 98). Due to the comparatively low cost of production these books are much cheaper than printed books and are therefore likely to allow students an easier time in acquiring relevant course materials.
In addition to that it is much easier to incorporate links to useful data on the subject using hyperlinks and wikis (Mason and Rennie 98). This point makes the content offered a significant increase in depth and breadth with regards to the subject matter. The portability of the electronic versions of books also appears to be an incentive for students who may have to travel long distances while laden with books. This approach allows a student the convenience of carrying a simple handheld device and through this mode access to needed reading material. It has also been suggested that this resource is also appropriate for emerging authors to gain wide readership. The resource can also serve as a vital means to ensure books which are no longer in print can remain in circulation (Mason and Rennie 98). This case is very crucial when we consider texts such as classical books which are no longer in print yet highly valued.
Also by virtue of the software and medium used to access the books it has been observed that these books are very suitable for a wide range of readers. Through features that allow the reader to increase font size, search the text and jump to sections within the text, these books are especially suitable for the readers (Mason and Rennie 99). In some cases the books allow the author to append additional resources such as video or audio files. Such resources allow the reader a richer learning experience that can not be experienced using printed books. In some cases the reader is allowed to use features such as text to speech that are especially crucial for readers with reading difficulties thus making the resource suitable for a wider range of readers (Mason and Rennie 99).
In addition to the above it has been observed that the resource can be crucial in provision of student support in an online learning environment. It has been reported that provision of student support plays a direct and critical role in student success, academic performance, psychological growth and program completion (Shelton and Saltsman 83). In line with this it would appear that the ease of access to necessary reading material may be a good approach to assisting the distance learners. It has been observed that many institutions have been quick to offer online courses but relatively slow at implementing additional student support services (Shelton and Saltsman 83).
It is hoped that this approach can shed a new light on the University Eastern Washington (UEW) distance learning programs. Another reason why this resource may be worth considering is due to current trends among the youth and social networking via websites. The popularity of social networks as an approach to communication and resource sharing has reported enormous grown in the last few years (Mason and Rennie 4). This position suggests that an increase in availability of digital resources available is likely to allow for social networking to be used in collaborative education. The creation of groups and forums where student can discuss material that is available easily can provide additional benefits to the students.
Cons of Electronic Books
Among the main disadvantages that come with the use of electronic resources is the fact that the user must know how to use the related devices. This position makes their use an uphill task for any new user using these devices or attempting to access the material.
In addition to that a major problem with these resources lies in their use for plagiarism (Mason and Rennie 99). It is fairly easy to copy and paste information from these resources thus posing a risk to students and the institution. The incorporation of features such as sound prompts, pop ups and dialogs may also be overwhelming if not annoying to some users. The ability to incorporate a wider variety should be done with caution so as not to make the resource too complex (Mason and Rennie 99). Another issue with the electronic resources can be traced to the ability to collaborate in the production of a text that broaches on the subject of intellectual property rights (Mason and Rennie 99). The existence of a variety of formats for these texts also poses a significant challenge in that access to the resource may be limited by device compatibility. Another issue with the digital resources is due to the fact that majority of users still prefer to read printed copies of the material.
This position may change as the reader learns to get accustomed to reading from a screen.
In this report the discussion has provided information on the incorporation of electronic books in UEW. It has been observed that these resources are likely to provide learners at the institution with some advantages and therefore their production should be considered. However, it has been reported that merely reproducing the books does not encourage their use. It has been suggested that for best result course teams need to work with UEW library staff to identify relevant books and specific chapters that are especially pertinent to the subject areas (Mason and Rennie 101). It has also been observed that this resource is especially suitable for scare and expensive books and as such consideration should be given to such books.
This approach has been successful in the Belfast Institute in creation of an electronic book section within its library (Mason and Rennie 101). Through this approach to its establishment the venture has reported success and is currently discussing plans for expansion. It is hoped that similar results can be witnessed in UEW following the implementation of the project. It was reported that the collaboration of Library staff and course teams was useful for students to begin using the e-books. It is hoped that UEW can follow a similar path in implementation to make sure books are available and students take advantage of the new opportunity to access reading material.
Gura, Mark, and Bernard Percy. Recapturing technology for education: keeping tomorrow in today’s classrooms. Maryland: Scarecrow Education, 2005. Print. Johnson, Dee LaMont, and Cleborne D Maddux.
Technology in Education: A Twenty Year Retrospective. Printed in the USA: The Haworth Press Inc, 2003. Print.
Kovalchick, Ann. Education and Technology: A-I. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO Inc, 2004. Print. Mason, Robin, and Frank Rennie. E-learning and Social Networking Handbook: resources for higher education. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.
Shelton, Kaye, and George Saltsman. An Administrators Guide to Online Education. Printed in the USA: Information Age Publishing Inc, 2005.