Indiana University

Indiana University School of Journalism

E-text program means J155 students work online

Latonya Yarbro | Feb. 17, 2013
higgs
Photo by Nick Demille
Adjunct lecturer Steve Higgs took his text book online last fall. This is the second semester for J155 students to use e-texts.
Students in J155 Research Techniques for Journalists are part of a new wave of textbook use at IU.

The spring classes are just the second group to use e-texts, or digital textbooks. While other IU courses use e-texts, this is the first text book by an instructor, adjunct lecturer Steve Higgs, to be offered as an e-text at IU.

It’s fitting that the course, which has been delivered online for more than 10 years, would be among the first to put its text online, too. All class assignments and lecture material are on the Internet through Oncourse, IU’s online collaboration and learning hub.

Higgs already had written his text, Information Gathering for Journalism and Public Relations, the year before and was using the hard copy version in classes. The required course introduces journalism majors to techniques for finding and using information and documents, both those found online and those that require old-fashioned shoe leather reporting and in-person interaction.

Higgs said he had always envisioned it as a digital text. He was exploring options when he attended a seminar last spring and started working with IU Vice President for Information Technology Brad Wheeler’s team.

“IU had no policies for self-published texts, and the committee formed under Wheeler's office to develop some, using mine as the prototype,” he said.

Wheeler said it is just one piece of a major e-text initiative for all eight IU campuses. According to Wheeler, as of last fall, 10,000 IU students are in classes that offer e-texts.

“It’s the economics we’re after. It makes college cost a bit less,” Wheeler said, adding that students also like the idea of sustainability related to online texts.

Having a digital option for his students helps Higgs keep his text material fresh.

book cover
Photo by Latonya Yarbro
Higgs wrote the text book the year before moving it to an e-text, though he said he always had in mind the idea of the e-text for the book.
“Now I can update the textbook each semester,” Higgs said. “If I need to fix or clarify something, I can put digital notes, highlights and annotations on the e-text for students to see when they open them.”

The fact that students can highlight, annotate and even form a study group around e-texts promotes working together, Wheeler said. Higgs, too, has seen benefits.

“The e-text has made my class much more focused, and I think better for the students to actually study,” he said. “It gives me a lot more control over everything involved in the class.”

Others at the journalism school are looking at the option as well.

“Students all over campus are adopting the e-text options rapidly,” said School of Journalism Interim Dean Michael Evans. “The research shows that they appreciate the lower cost, the ease, and the features e-texts can offer.”


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