DOBSON — Surry Community College instructors are participating in a pilot program that uses digital technology to access textbooks. SCC is host to the North Carolina Community College System Quality and Assessment Center, which was given the task of piloting the e-text program on eight community college campuses in the state.
Several professors were selected to participate in the pilot program, representing departments from all across campus.
According to Candace Holder, VP of technology services for SCC, the goal of the pilot program is to examine how much money students could save on textbooks if the colleges provide an e-text system. The study will be completed in June.
Holder said that early figures show a 47-percent savings per student on per semester textbook costs.
Depending on the textbook vendor, students may have the cost for the e-text as part of their student fee, while some vendors require students to purchase a card with an access code.
“We found that some students could afford tuition, but could not afford to purchase textbooks — this is why we are examining the e-texts with this pilot program,” Holder said.
Darren Baugess, math instructor at SCC, teaches a math class that is part of the pilot program. Baugess’ students are able to access the math textbook for the course through Noodle, which is a web-based application available for SCC students.
Students who have e-readers or laptop computers bring the devices to class and use them to access the textbook; those who do not have the devices are able to print out portions of the textbook from computers on campus.
“I have had a positive experience with the program. The students like it and those who do not want to carry the textbooks around campus really love the convenience of a digital textbook. Also, students can create notes in their digital textbooks and I can also create notes for them to read — you can annotate it just like a regular textbook,” Baugess said.
One possible disadvantage Baugess mentioned is that many students do not have their own computer or e-reader, but for those students, Baugess brings up the information on his sympodium and projects it onto the screen in the classroom.
Mary Olvera uses the e-text in her child guidance class, which is part of the Early Childhood Education program at SCC.
Olvera said she enjoys participating in the program and looks at it as a positive experience for herself and her students. “I can embed resources for the students — it makes information more readily accessible because I can put it in the text we are discussing and if the text is too general I can supplement it with notes, articles, and links to videos. We are even able to make the text larger for students who have issues with vision.”
Olvera also is able to isolate sections of the text and choose a color for highlighted passages. Sometimes, she may highlight sections in yellow and ask the students to use a different color to choose significant sections.
She points out that this is helpful with students of all ages and has applications for students who may have trouble finding the main points in the middle of long sections of text.
As Candace Holder pointed out, Surry Community College is “constantly examining and changing the way instruction happens in the classroom” and the e-text pilot program has an ultimate goal: cost savings for community college students, which will lead to more students getting an education at a reasonable cost.
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