Trevor Bailey is director of worldwide education at Adobe Systems, and leads the programs and strategies that make Adobe products easily available to education institutions.
Today, only 57% of students who attend college in the U.S. actually graduate. The country ranks 12th among 36 developed countries. President Obama’s administration has a stated goal for the U.S.: Take the lead in higher education completion rates by 2020. To accomplish this aim, Obama notes the need to foster critical thinking, champion problem solving and employ innovative knowledge to prepare students for college and careers.
Technical literacy and strong learning engagement are two important paths toward boosting college graduation rates and better preparing students for lifelong career success. However, technology is just one vital factor in a cumulative equation. Educators can benefit by rapidly adopting tablet devices and interactive digital publications.
Better Study Habits and Performance With Tablets
Market intelligence firm IDC projects worldwide shipments of more than 70 million tablets in 2012, up from 17 million in 2010. We are witnessing a major transformation in how digital content is distributed and consumed. According to a 2011 Pearson Foundation survey, 86% of college students who own a tablet say the device helps them study more efficiently, and 76% report that tablets help them perform better in their classes. Seventy percent of college students and college-bound high school seniors are interested in owning a tablet device, and 20% expect to purchase a tablet within the next six months.
In order to cater to a generation weaned on technology, educational institutions need to be at the forefront of the tablet revolution. Tablet devices can reinvent and improve the way a curriculum is consumed and, in many cases, replace the hard-copy textbooks that students lug around campus.
Richer than their print counterparts, digital textbooks include a number of interactive features. They are not limited to static pictures, but can integrate video, audio, animation, interactive simulations and even 360-degree rotations and panoramas. In addition, universities have the ability to create custom, institutionally branded viewers with unique displays and navigation options.
Interactive Learning Leads to Better Retention
Studies show that interactive content can boost learning retention. Students prefer to learn by doing, versus seeing or reading. When they interact with videos, charts, and graphs, they retain more information.
On another level, digital publishing can help transform passive learners into active participants. At the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, a grassroots, student-driven initiative explores the intersection of journalism and tablet technology in a course about mobile media production. Students created an engaging multimedia edition of the university newspaper, and incorporated photography and video, beyond traditional print publishing methods. In the process, they were able to explore different disciplines and garner competitive workforce skills by becoming hands-on producers and innovating new forms of communication.
Understanding Learning Effectiveness
Integrated analytical tools provide useful data that measures how students are browsing, interacting and sharing digital content. This enables colleges and universities to easily gauge learning effectiveness, and thus determine the most constructive messages, teaching approaches and delivery vehicles.
Educators would be able to determine at a glance which lessons are accessed most often and for how long. They would see the best-traveled navigational paths, pinpoint the most popular content, and then adjust accordingly to maximize student engagement. Through improved visibility, educators can improve student learning outcomes and better allocate limited resources.
Digital Publishing Makes Knowledge More Accessible
Digital publishing allows professors or subject matter experts to self-publish their own educational materials or research findings and distribute the information on tablet devices. Teachers can iterate content quickly, better keeping pace in a world where knowledge evolves every instant. On a smaller scale, they can post lesson documents online for students, versus relying on hard-copy materials.
By harnessing interactive technologies, educators can explain even the most complex scholarly or scientific concepts in compelling and intelligible ways. For instance, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation worked with Case Western Reserve University researchers to document the impact of epidural stimulation in the context of paralysis of the lower extremities. Using interactive, digitally published content, researchers vividly demonstrated the results of a formerly arcane scientific study by, for example, displaying time-lapse photography of nerve regeneration.
Up for Any Publishing Task
Sleek, lightweight tablets afford opportunities for higher education institutions to deliver engaging, interactive content not only to students, but also to educators, administrators and alumni. Campuses already use digital publishing for communications efforts, student recruitment, course content and the publication of scholarly research.
Many top universities are discovering that digital publishing can reimagine alumni newsletters and campus magazines — often with less reliance on outside publishers or vendors. For instance, Clemson World, Clemson University’s official alumni magazine, is now available on the iPad. Written and designed exclusively for tablet readers, the publication includes multimedia content such as video and animation.
Indiana University’s IU Libris application gives iPad users free access to a number of university magazines and publications, such as IU Teaching & Learning and the Principles of Excellence, a publication issued by the university president.
Frequent Content Updates and Sustainable Publishing
Digital publications easily reach a wide audience across platforms and devices like the iPad, Android tablets and the Kindle Fire. Not to mention, access is quick, cost-effective and friendlier on the environment. In many cases, content can be created once and delivered to multiple platforms and operating systems, reducing the cost of publishing while simultaneously reaching broader audiences.
Digital publishing in higher education is still in the early stages, but the quality, volume and variety of interactive content is rapidly expanding. Ultimately, tablets and digital publishing are crucial technologies that promise to trigger positive change for college students and their instructors.