In 2011 we did a review of the first interactive medical textbook, reported on major investments by mainstream publishers in digital platforms, and wrote extensively on the the distribution of iPads and other tablets to medical students, residents, and physicians.
Here at iMedicalApps we are always interested in ways to utilize mobile technology for a positive purpose — changing the way that healthcare professionals are trained certainly falls into that category.
CourseSmart offers a huge range of online digital textbooks which are easily accessible on a range of devices. We have previously introduced CourseSmart and recently reviewed the platform, concluding with some mixed impressions. We also had a chance to talk to CourseSmart’s Chief Marketing Officer, Jill Ambrose and ask her a few questions about CourseSmart and get some insight into the transformation of medical education.
Please tell us a little bit about the background and initial founding of CourseSmart
CourseSmart was founded in 2007 when a group of six higher education publishers partnered together to offer faculty a textbook evaluation service and students a new choice for buying and accessing their required textbooks online. The publishers included Pearson, Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, John Wiley & Sons, Houghton Mifflin and Bedford, Freeman and Worth Publishing Group (Macmillan).
Today, the company is recognized as the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and digital course materials with more than 30 higher education publisher partners and over 20,000 eTextbooks and eResources available to our 2.5 million users.
What is the vision for CourseSmart as a company?
Our vision has always been to expand access to higher education and improve learning outcomes by connecting content producers with content users in the higher education space and offer:
- significant savings
- device agnostic access both online and offline
- superior reading experience
- advanced app technology
- unmatched campus integration.
The way in which students and faculty are consuming course materials is changing rapidly and we pride ourselves in staying ahead of these trends. We have a long list of industry firsts that include the first iPhone app in August of 2009, the first iPad app in April of 2010 and the first Android app in April of 2011, and the first mobile web app last month among others. We are continually enhancing our offering across all platforms and devices that connect users with our content.
CourseSmart has an enormous range of titles available-could you elaborate on the process by which titles are selected and transferred to electronic form?
We believe content is critical and a main differentiator between us and many of our competitors. How important is your offering to students if they can’t get the titles necessary to pass the class?
We rely on our publisher partners to provide the most current course materials in use today to ensure students are able to find their required course materials in digital form and can take advantage of all of the digital efficiencies that accompany our eTextbooks, including guaranteed, upfront savings of up to 60% when compared to print textbooks, anytime, anywhere access via any computer or web-enabled device, as well as the ability to “cache” their eTextbooks for usage offline. Our expertise in this end to end workflow allows us to obtain the content in a PDF file along with various metadata associated with the title. Our proprietary system manages the content ingestion and publishing processes so that students and faculty alike can find what they need quickly.
The reviews on iTunes of your CourseSmart iPad app seem largely negative with criticism directed toward a lack of multitasking, the repeated sign-in and a number of other issues. Do you feel that these reviews are justified?
Being the first to market with apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android, we have blazed the trail for many followers in the industry. Being first often means you have to anticipate the best features before the device is even in the market such as the iPad app. We get many of them right and listen carefully to our customers.
We take all feedback into account as we develop the next iterations of our mobile offerings to ensure we have the best offering on the market. The rating on each version of the iPad app is higher than the former version demonstrating our commitment to continuous improvement. As we develop features to satisfy our customers’ needs, new feature needs arise. The requests that you are seeing in the reviews today are currently being evaluated for future development. We continuously strive to enhance our offerings to remain the top destination for accessing digital learning materials.
Has CourseSmart linked up with any medical schools to integrate technology and learning?
CourseSmart has partnered with hundreds of institutions to offer a comprehensive solution across a broad range of disciplines, and we have worked with several medical schools that now offer digital course materials specifically for their medical programs. As background, CourseSmart’s eTextbook platform can integrate with an institution’s learning management system, student information system or campus portal, enabling faculty and students to integrate their digital course materials directly into their workflow.
Where do you see the future of medical education?
Like the rest of the higher education industry, I believe many courses taught outside the lab or hospital will move online, offering flexibility to students. In addition, simulations and interactive learning will provide additional practical learning environments for students. Real time mobility of information will be a source for learning while in medical school with applications that will extend into future examination and operating rooms.
What does the future hold for CourseSmart?
We at CourseSmart will continue to innovate and provide a robust offering for the devices and platforms that are most in demand. The continued proliferation of Web-enabled mobile devices and campus WiFi will drive eTextbook and other digital materials growth. We will also see the growth of course materials with integrated assessment and automatic feedback for students (eResources) as they are utilized to improve learning outcomes.
Is there anything else you feel our readers should know about CourseSmart?
CourseSmart’s primary goal has always been to connect content providers with content users at the lowest cost possible in an effort to increase access to course materials and improve learning outcomes.
While eTextbook adoption is growing rapidly, many students still prefer print textbooks and this makes page fidelity crucial. CourseSmart enables all students, whether they are using a digital or print edition, to literally be on the same page. Further, CourseSmart’s eResources provide students with engaging experiences that result in higher learning outcomes. It’s not just about what’s “fun and interesting” in their eTextbooks but rather, what truly helps them to engage and ultimately, the comprehension of that learning experience.