WATCH ABOVE: The U of A’s Dino 101 course continues to break new ground. Now, it’s a textbook being offered in app form. Emily Mertz has the details.
EDMONTON — It first paved the way as a free, online course open to all and now Dino 101 is being offered as an electronic textbook in app form.
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“We’re mindful of our students and the tremendous pressures on them with tuition and the additional costs of education such as textbooks,” said Jonathan Schaeffer, dean of the faculty of science. “We wanted to build something that was fun, engaging and at a price point that added real value to the student learning experience.”
Available as a $9.99 app through iTunes and Google Play, the interactive textbook is based on the content from the U of A’s extremely successful Dino 101 Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).
“The word ‘textbook’ in some ways is a bit misleading, as well, because when you think of a textbook you think of something big and heavy that you’re just going to read 400 pages, whereas the Dino 101 experience is highly interactive,” explained Schaeffer.
“Think about it as an interactive textbook.”
The app features instructional videos or traditional text interspersed with quizzes, activities, puzzles and games.
“We added traditional text with filming, with software interactivity, to create the complete package. There’s no one-size-fits-all learning, so if you want to read, by all means do the readings. If you like the videos, great. If you just want to play with the puzzles and the applications, great. The winning recipe of course is doing all of it,” said Schaeffer.
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The U of A team hopes the app will be popular enough to recoup the costs of developing it. Then, any profits will be reinvested into paleontological research at the University of Alberta.
Schaeffer hopes the e-textbook app doesn’t stop with Dino 101.
“I’m optimistic it won’t be a one-off. We have wonderful ideas for future courses that we could try this with.
“The Dino 101 app is an experiment,” added Shaeffer. “We don’t know what works, what doesn’t work, what really engages students, what students find boring. We’re hoping we’ll get a lot of feedback on this so we can do another one and come up with an even better product.”
In 2014, 750 students took the paid Dino 101 course for credit. As of September 2015, close to 70,000 people have taken the free, not-for-credit course.