Helping students with e-books

Plymouth students will be the first to benefit from the Cengage Learning e-book bundle provided by the University

First year students signing up to study Psychology at Plymouth University are set to get a better education and save £500 each on course materials as a result of a deal brokered by the University with global digital publisher Cengage Learning.

For the next four years Cengage Learning is to provide 12 set texts essential to the course in a digital bundle that can be downloaded by each student for free. Dr Phil Gee, Director of the BSc Psychology Programme at Plymouth University, said: “We are the first University to support our students in this way. Background reading prior to attending lectures is a must if our students are to get off to a flying start. Our new e-book bundle will mean that all students, regardless of their financial situation, will have access anytime, anywhere to essential reading from a range of devices, including web-enabled laptops, iPads and iPods. Access to the e-books, which will be updated automatically every time a new edition is published, will be provided to each student for a period offour years.

“The cost of studying at university figures high in the minds of all students and their parents. This deal will put all our students on a level playing field in terms of access to the books they need to do well. There can never be enough texts in the library to cater for those students with tight budgets who cannot afford to purchase books themselves. Now everyone can enrich their education at a time that suits them. Our departmental purchase also means that our library, which previously spent funds purchasing 30 or more copies of first year texts, now has additional budget to buy essential specialist texts that will benefit second and third year students – it’s a ‘win win’ situation for both the students and the University.

“And there are real educational benefits in this approach. As a department we are keen to establish effective academic habits and lifelong learning skills from day one”, he said. “Now our staff can email students ahead of lectures identifying specific chapters they can read in advance to help them understand the topics that are taught. The ability to annotate our e-books enables lecturers to highlight texts that may be controversial or require further attention, and to inspire dialogue and debate pre and post lecture.”

Prior to the purchase of the Cengage Learning e-book bundle, Plymouth University’s Psychology Department used a range of texts from a variety of different publishers to support First Year lectures and modules.  Similar texts published by Cengage Learning were carefully evaluated by staff and given the green light before the digitisation project could go ahead. Cengage Learning’s text books were converted to run in Bookshelf digital book software from Vital Source.

A total of 12 titles were purchased – one general introductory text and 11 books related specifically to each of the department’s core modules.  Commenting on the selection, Phil Gee said, “In many cases we were able to carry on using the Cengage Learning texts that we had already been using in print form.  For example, for our Module on Psychology Research Methods and Statistics we are using ebook versions of Statistics for the Behavioural Sciences by Gravetter and Wallnau and Research Methods for the Behavioural Sciences by Gravetter and Forzano. Similarly, for our lectures on Learning we are continuing with Introduction to Learning and Behaviour by Powell, Symbaluk and Honey.  For other areas we switched titles. So for our lectures in Social Psychology we have adopted Social Psychology and Human Nature by Bushman, and for Clinical Psychology we switched to Abnormal Psychology by Barlow and Durand.  But because Cengage Learning has a significant range of titles written by eminent academics the changes were relatively easy to make.”

Commenting on the package, Rosie Rule, First Year Psychology student, said, “The ebook scheme is fabulous! Aside from the huge amount of money it saved me, the ebooks are so much more accessible than the hard copies. I can now carry twelve textbooks round with me on my phone and iPad…I can read during the commute to uni and even whilst I’m queuing to pay for my groceries. Similarly the search facilities are so much more effective and book marking and highlighting are especially useful. I’ve never used ebooks before and in all honesty I typically find reading a bit of a chore, but having the ebooks really has made a world of difference.”