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Trine U. School Requires E-Textbooks for Entire Curriculum

Adoption of digital textbooks has moved at a snail’s pace on most college campuses. But at Trine University’s School of Professional Studies, that shift is being jump-started with a new collegewide mandate to adopt e-textbooks in all courses by January.

The School of Professional Studies—which has 500 adult students enrolled in 10 degree programs online and at branch campuses across Indiana—hopes the e-textbook push will help students save money, boost sustainability, and enhance classroom and online instruction.

Starting next semester, faculty members will be required to teach from digital editions of their textbooks using the CaféScribe platform, operated by the Follett Higher Education Group. The Web-enabled e-textbook system allows students to highlight and take notes on the text while they read as well as compare notes and discuss their reading in online forums.

Faculty members can also embed comments, links, and discussion questions into the digital text. “The faculty are really excited about it,” said David Wood, the school’s dean. “The e-textbook really provides a lot of interactive opportunities for students.”

But the switch to digital textbooks will not come without growing pains. The school is working closely with officials at Follett, which also runs the university bookstore, to run faculty workshops and Webinars to prepare professors and students for the switch. “I think any kind of change is challenging, but once they start using it, it’s very easy to use,” said Jen Eveslage, an intellectual-property manager at Follett. “They’re going to become much more engaged with the text.”

According to Ms. Eveslage, the switch to e-textbooks has not required faculty members to change their curricula all that much. CaféScribe collaborated with faculty members to make sure that textbooks they normally use are made available in their online textbook store, and have worked with publishers to get traditional textbooks converted into e-textbooks where necessary. Faculty “will have the materials that they are used to using,” she said.

Having all required reading in a digital format, Mr. Wood said, will also make keeping up with coursework much more convenient for the school’s adult students, many of whom have to balance college and career. “Our students are out working, traveling at conferences, and all over the world,” he said. “E-textbooks allow them to have access wherever they may be.”

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