UW Madison Students Part of e-Book Study


Some students at the UW Madison will not have to buy their own textbooks this fall. The university is footing the bill to study how interactive e-books affect learning. As with any new technology, it presents challenges.

Four courses this fall are using versions of e-books available for download onto computers, tablets and smartphones. However, they are not just books. They come with an interactive component allowing students to annotate texts and share content with each other and their professors.

Senior Vice President Shelton Waggener is with the non-profit Internet2, which is managing the study. He says higher education’s interest in a digital educational environment creates accessibility issues, “The market hasn’t yet caught up to what accessibility looks like in a remixed digital world. As you start to think about digital content being multimedia, being fully immersive, the providers are having to find new ways to make those things accessible.”

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Director of the McBurney Disability Resource Center Cathy Trueva says the university is committed to making sure any new technologies are accessible to all students. For now, that means hiring readers to help students with visual impairments use the e-texts. She says as the technology develops, it will be a good thing for universal access, “It’s useful to think that having a textbook that has an audio component to it – that’s not just for people with disabilities. A lot of people are using audio books. I mean, I’m just thinking returning adult students. They’re cooking dinner and are studying at the same time because they are listening to their book.”

So far, the pilot has cost the UW-Madison $40,000.