A decade ago, many people were talking about how, one day, all of the books and other course materials that we use in classrooms would be replaced with digital versions of themselves. That day isn’t quite here yet – we still are quite reliant on physical textbooks – but it doesn’t feel nearly as far off as it did back then. And there’s good reason for that change: It’s something your students want, and in more and more cases, grew up with.
A recent poll showed that over half of all college students now own a tablet, while two-thirds use a laptop specifically for school work everyday. What’s more, 83 percent of college students believe tablets will transform the way students learn in the future, and 70 percent of those surveyed said that tablets will replace printed textbooks within the next five years. At this point, digital course materials aren’t just a growing trend – they’re an expectation of your students’.
And if you think things are going to change anytime soon, consider how omnipresent smartphones are within the college student demographic. Then consider that more (88% to 85 %, respectively) college students own laptops than own smartphones, and that those students see their laptops as an essential tool in their education.
All of that is to say that perhaps our titular question should be changed to “Why Doesn’t Digital Make Sense for Higher Ed.?” The market is obviously there. And with the cost of physical course materials being a hot-button issue for students always on the lookout for the best possible deal, schools would be wise to open up the often-cheaper digital market to their students.
The rise of digital isn’t just about costs, of course. There are a significant number of advantages for digital beyond the relative costs. Digital course materials are typically much more flexible and interactive. Not only do students not have to carry big, heavy books around with them as they go class to class, but it’s much easier to highlight and make notations within a digital text. There’s a good chance that they’ll come equipped with helpful supplementary materials like videos, games or quizzes that it would be much more difficult to make available for a physical text.
In an increasingly digital world, it’s obvious that this revolution isn’t going to stop at the thresholds of our higher education institutions – it’s either hop on the bandwagon now, or try to find a spot when things get a lot more crowded. Digital is no longer the future – it’s here and now, and can make a real difference in the education of students at the highest level.