January 2012 Archives

Course Packs, iPads and eReaders

On January 19th, Apple Inc. released some new products that may affect higher education. While Apple's new products are geared towards textbook sales (and for the moment focused on grades 9-12), they have also given us simple new tools for self-publishing "e-books". One of the first things that springs to mind is the ease of creating digital course packs using the new software, "iBooks Author". 

For people using Macintosh computers, the free iBooks Author software allows you to quickly drag and drop files into a compiled text complete with index, glossary, supplemental video or audio material, and even interactive quizzes. Files can include Word documents, text documents, web pages, or presentations. There are some limitations - PDF files cannot be included (you need to start with the original source file), and Powerpoint presentations must be first opened in Apple's Keynote software before they can be included. The resulting file can then be distributed to students for use on their iPads.  It should also be noted that the non-technical restrictions of copyright still apply, as they do to any course pack whether e-book, web-based, or paper.

This is more limited than what can be included on a course web site in Sakai, eCollege or Blackboard, but the real benefits are elsewhere. Reading can be difficult on the web, but it's effortless on the iPad (or Kindle, Nook, Sony eReader, etc.). Students don't need to be connected to the internet. The reading software provides methods to take (and share) notes. And, quite literally, instructors can start compiling their course packs in as few as five minutes. It's dead simple - if you can use a word processor you can do this. 

The only real problem is that the files created by iBooks Author are restricted to distribution on the Apple iPad. For use on Kindles, Nooks and other tablets or ebook devices, faculty would have to use other software to prepare compatible files. There are two free choices to note, Calibre and Sigil.  Calibre is the simpler of the two (it merely converts other files into e-book formats), but neither has the ease or sophistication of Apple's iBook Author. Still, it should be fairly simple to use Calibre to put together a simplified version of the course pack while building the primary version of the course pack in iBooks Author (the "epub" files that Calibre and Sigil produce can also be used on an iPad, but with the loss of several useful features). And another option for Macintosh users is Apple "Pages" which can also save in "epub" format while allowing direct import into iBook Author, so may provide the best workflow. 

On January 27, OIT will demonstrate "ScarletApps" for collaboration and education. ScarletApps is the Rutgers-branded implementation of Google Apps for Education, including email, calendars, document editing and document sharing. 

The demonstration will be on the Busch campus, with video conferencing available in Newark and Camden.

For more information and to register, please go to the ScarletApps web site:
Faculty and instructors who had online surveys should look in their email today or tomorrow for the results of their Fall 2011 Student Instructional Rating Surveys. Please check your "spam" or "junk mail" if you do not find your survey results by Thursday, January 5th. 

Over the next several days we will distribute copies of the SIRS reports to department administrators through Sakai dropboxes. We will notify department administrators by email when all reports are distributed, but departments may check to see if their reports are ready earlier at https://sakai.rutgers.edu/portal/site/sirs-distribution and the summary statistics sheets can be viewed immediately at http://ctaar.rutgers.edu/archive/

Results of paper surveys are not available at this time. Paper surveys will be scanned and processed during the Spring semester and distributed by June. 

Please contact us at (732) 932-7466 or info@brokenemail.rutgers.edu please replace "brokenemail" with ctaar.rutgers.edu if you have any questions or problems retrieving your SIRS results.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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