New program gives students chance to buy electronic texts
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 31, 2012 1:46 PM
Amber Whitfield helps her fellow nursing student, Virginia Lewis, navigate the electronic version of their nursing textbooks at Wayne Community College. The electronic version has several benefits according to the students, including convenience and cost savings.
As the price of a college education continues to rise, and along with it, the cost of books, sometimes students are forced to choose between the two.
"It's been a struggle for students to afford the tuition and the textbooks in some of our programs," said Dr. Linda Nelms, vice president for student services at Wayne Community College, who cited cases where students forgo buying the accompanying course book and opt to share with a classmate.
Another consideration is ease. Keeping up with a number of cumbersome books can be difficult at best, especially since technology offers more options -- e-books, e-readers and the ability to download information onto laptops and smartphones.
This summer, WCC has introduced its first eTextbook pilot program, starting with the Nursing 114 class in the allied health department having the choice of buying the hardback version or the eTextbook format.
"Textbooks for this course run almost $1,200, for Nursing 114, which is part of the ADN, associate degree in nursing," Ms. Nelms said.
After the ebook conversion, one of the texts, which would normally have cost $125, was available to students for $45.
"We were able to get this pilot going in less than a week," she said. "We're piloting this program to see what the needs of the students are in support of the program, like what kind of devices, looking at the pros and cons of it."
Part of the pilot involves coordinating efforts with the college bookstore, providing signage directing students to that option if they choose. Students then have to provide a device to access the information -- be it laptop computer, e-reader, iPad or Acer reader.
"They can load this on those and be able to download the information, put it on their PC at home, but they can also download it on a number of devices," Ms. Nelms said.
Joanne McClave, instructor in the Holistic Health Concepts class, said the students have made the transition with relative ease.
"Students are very complimentary about the fact they can access all the materials we talk about in class," she said. "They're not having any difficulties with getting to the different tables and charts.
"This generation grew up with technology. It's as natural as breathing is for us."
Interspersed throughout the class of 46 students can be seen a mix of textbooks and laptops on the desks.
"I still bought the original textbook because I wanted to keep my nursing book forever," student Amber Whitfield said. "But I can also use this on my iPhone. When I went to the beach, I was able to pull my textbook up and read."
"I just bought the iPad and I also have an e-book," classmate Virginia Lewis added. "It's easy. You can take notes and everything."
During a break in the class, students Mike Hill and Donna Herring shared how they had pursued the option with college officials.
"I have been begging for it forever," Ms. Herring said.
"Because I have this many nursing books," Hill chimed in, gesturing with arms open wide. "I can't carry them."
Lugging around heavy textbooks had become so frustrating, one of the future nurses admitted she had taken the role a bit too far.
"I was literally taking a scalpel and cutting up the book to bring in what I needed," Ms. Herring said.
Now, that's no longer a problem, she said.
"You can access it from your phone when you're on a kayak. I will never ever use a regular book again."
Windy Amory opted for both versions, partly because the e-version is available for a limited period, usually 365 days, so students who want to keep a copy will have to print it out.
Officials said they are working to expand the option into other programs.
More information and the chance to provide feedback can be made online at waynecc.edu/etextbooks.