As textbook costs continue to rise and college faculty look for new ways to engage a younger generation of students, the demand for digital classroom content in the U.S. has reached unprecedented levels.
In particular, there is a growing interest in e-textbooks, which can be produced at a fraction of the cost of their paper counterparts and often include interactive charts, learning modules and other digitally enhanced content designed to help students navigate tricky subjects in a particular course.
To help meet this growing demand, Brookdale faculty and staff successfully applied for a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2011 to produce two e-textbooks and provide tools and advice to other educators who were looking to do the same.
The grant project – titled E-books and Mobile Apps for Technician Education (E-MATE) and led by professor Michael Qaissaunee and program administrator Kelly Parr – included three Brookdale graphic design students and two engineering students, who were paid to help create digital learning content, build an informative website and even present their work at a national Advanced Technological Education (ATE) conference in Washington D.C. last October.
This fall, thanks to a new grant from the NSF, an expanded team of Brookdale students, faculty and staff will attempt to build on their previous work and provide new resources and digital content to educators across the country.
E-MATE 2.0, funded by an $899,899 NSF grant, will create and disseminate interactive digital learning materials designed to help college students grasp difficult course topics at colleges across the country. The program, funded through August 2019, will also give hundreds of educators the tools and guidance they need to create interactive course materials of their own.
Several Brookdale students studying graphic design, engineering and technology (cybersecurity), environmental science, physics, computer science or chemistry will be enlisted to work with faculty and representatives from five of the NSF’s national ATE centers to create interactive learning content and disseminate it to educators nationwide.
Some examples of interactive learning content include this web-based “Ripple Tank” module, which allows students to better understand wave action by clicking across the screen to generate virtual waves. In this interactive “Snell’s Law” module, students can activate a laser, position it at different angles and fire it through different materials, even using virtual tools like protractors and calculators to better understand the properties of refraction.
In this module, students can get an in-depth look at the behavior of light, radio and sound waves, including the differences between constructive and destructive interference.
“In my 20 years of teaching, I’ve seen the rapid evolution of students, spiking textbook prices and the almost glacial change in materials for teaching and learning,” said Qaissaunee. “This project is driven by our observation of students’ powerful connection to their mobile devices and the growing difficulty in getting students to engage with traditional textbook content. Our work to date demonstrates that interactive content delivered to mobile devices increases learner engagement and positively impacts teaching and learning.”
E-MATE 2.0 team members will also create an online training course and host face-to-face workshops to provide more than 300 American educators with the resources they need to deploy interactive learning content in their own classrooms.
In addition to Qaissaunee and Parr, the E-MATE 2.0 team will include chemistry professor Shahin Pirzad, environmental science instructor Juliette Goulet, physics professor Nancy Liu, Innovation Center director Norah Kerr-McCurry and instructional designer Jonathan Shaloum.
Students will be selected to the team beginning this fall, and will begin their paid work on the E-MATE 2.0 program in Spring 2017.
“In addition to the tremendous benefits offered to students and technical educators in the form of interactive course materials, this initiative will also provide our student team-members with an invaluable learning experience,” said Parr. “They have the opportunity to gain real-world experience while building resumes and portfolios of work. Whether students transfer to a four-year school or enter the workforce, working on the project will benefit them immeasurably.”
To learn more about the E-MATE project, click here.