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2015 when a team of faculty members and instructional designers at Columbus State Community College (OH) began looking for a low-cost textbook option for the school’s online first-year English composition course, they opted to create their own.
Three years later, CSCC’s “iComp: A Guide to First- Year Writing” Multi-Touch iBook has completed a two- semester, seven-class pilot phase and is now being rolled out to four courses. According to the project team, the book eliminates the need for traditional textbooks and re-frames the ways students engage with course material. While it is important that students are saving money, the hope is that the innovative curriculum design will increase student suc- cess and retention.
“We wanted to have the textbook be something stu- dents are constantly interacting with as a means of doing the work, not a supplementary thing,” explained Nicholas Lakostik, an associate professor of rhetoric and composi- tion and one of the four authors of the book.
Composition class is about reading and writing, but the iBook allows students with different learning styles to engage with the material, noted Jason LaMar, supervisor of instructional technology innovations in the Digital Edu- cation and Instructional Services division. “There are a lot of video clips and audio segments, as well as interactive pieces that are tactile,” he added. “Tapping into all those learning styles was a huge benefit of the platform.”
The iComp e-book is organized so that each chapter leads students through a specific type of essay writing. To
both complement and supplement the text, the authors cre- ated videos, interviews, animations, photo galleries, virtual spaces, interactive objects and quizzes, and links to other resources and readings on the web.
One goal was to help students see the real-world appli- cations of the writing skills they are learning. For example, the project team linked to sites such as NPR’s StoryCorps and created activities around them so students can see how people develop and use narratives for varied academ- ic, professional and personal purposes.
Before setting out to create an interactive textbook, the CSCC team looked at existing attempts at composition e- books and were not impressed. “They were static,” LaMar said. “They were like glorified PowerPoint presentations.” But he added that creating an e-textbook for composition does present thorny challenges. In STEM fields, there is objective content to be learned. This project involved con- cepts that were more subjective and contextual.
The first pilot group was made up of high school students getting dual credit in community college. “We have a facilitated model with students doing work in an online shell,” Lakostik explained. “An instructor at our cam- pus is the instructor of record, and an instructor in their high schools serves as a facilitator and gives students feedback.”
CSCC next integrated iComp into its distance learn- ing courses and created a full 16-week course and as- signments in the Blackboard learning management sys- tem. Students register for specially designated “Bring Your
Own Apple Device” (BYOAD) sections in order to access the e-book.
For the upcoming semester, CSCC is changing the way it advertises the course sections using the iComp book. “We had students who had no idea they had signed up for an Apple class,” LeMar said. For the fall, the BYOAD
CSCC’s iComp e-book
CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | October/November 2018

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