To Boost Engagement, Give Tech Savvy Students Interactive Content

Digital Learning

To Boost Engagement, Give Tech Savvy Students Interactive Content

from VitalSource

By Mike Hale, PhD     Feb 13, 2017

To Boost Engagement, Give Tech Savvy Students Interactive Content

This article is part of the collection: Community Colleges Point Toward New Directions in Digital Innovation.

Imagine opening your chemistry textbook and being able to use an interactive periodic table to create complex chlorofluorocarbon compounds. Or listening to Winston Churchill’s famous 1940 Battle of Britain speech directly from your book.

Far fetched? With today’s EPUB 3 interactive e-textbooks, absolutely not. Offering these multimedia learning environments aren’t just add-on services for colleges; they’re now a necessity to meet students’ expectations—and keep them engaged.

Hinds Community College, has observed a shift in the learning needs of students over the last decade as their technology competency has exponentially increased. As students’ digital literacy grows, schools must match or surpass the level of technology students use outside of the classroom.

“Our students are coming to us with much different demands than they did even five years ago. They are tech savvy and tech focused," says Joyce Brasfield-Adams, who currently works with first-year students. "They want to learn in ways that are more interactive—both in class and in the tools they use to learn. To be impactful, we can’t teach the way we did 20 years ago and expect to keep them involved engaged in their studies, because our students today don’t learn the same way.”

Kevin Parsons, VP of Instruction at North Carolina’s Richmond Community College, believes that technology offerings play a part in students’ choices about what college to attend. “Our students—across demographics and age groups—are coming to us so tech savvy and want to learn using the newest technology,” says Parsons. “It has become part of the recruiting pitch in a highly competitive environment.”

A 2016 study of 500 college students nationwide showed high expectations of interactivity. While the survey found an overall dissatisfaction with the level of technology used in higher ed classrooms, students showed an affinity for technology that allows for immersive, interactive learning environments—and for the media richness and instant feedback available in EPUB 3 content specifically. For example, the survey found that students wanted the following features, all of which are already available in e-textbooks:

  • The ability to take quizzes on information learned during studying (63 percent)
  • The ability to keep track of information learned during study sessions (57 percent)
  • The ability to take notes and highlight content in a digital textbook (55 percent)
  • The ability to set study goals and track their progress (52 percent)
Full size image here. Graph by VitalSource.

My colleague William Chesser is one of the founders of VitalSource—a leading digital content solutions provider. Since founding the company more than 20 years ago, he has seen the digital textbook industry change greatly.

“Digital content, as it was originally made available to the market, was often no more than pictures of the print equivalent. As students became more digitally savvy in other parts of their lives, the digital textbook, as originally presented, became more lacking in its ability to meet rising expectations and needs," says Chesser. "Digital textbooks now have the features students want—the quality of content, level of interactivity, media richness, study aid features, and analytics—that correlate to satisfaction and provide value to students’ educational experience—exponentially more value than a traditional textbook and at a more affordable price.”

At Hinds, Brasfield-Adams has seen a marked increase in student achievement and retention since more of her students have moved to digital textbooks as part of an inclusive access program at her school. She does not mince words about the role of interactive technology for today’s learners.“This is how our students learn,” she says. “If you, as a college instructor or administrator, don’t want to adopt digital learning tools, you need to retire.”

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