E-books Fail The Classroom Test
Business schools pride themselves on being ahead of the curve when it comes to management theory and innovation. But their record is considerably less impressive when it comes to the implementation of cutting-edge technology such as e-book readers, Apple’s iPad and social networking, where students continue to outpace their tutors.
So expectations were high a year ago when seven US colleges, including two business schools, University of Washington Foster School of Business and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, signed up with Amazon to test the online retailer’s large-screen Kindle DX e-book reader.
Some even thought that with students able to load class materials and textbooks easily on to the 10-ounce device, the era of lugging textbooks around campus might finally be over.
Of the seven schools that participated in the Kindle pilot, Darden worked most closely with Amazon to convert many of the case studies it uses in first-year classes to the Kindle format, and selected 62 students and 10 faculty members for the pilot.
But while students liked some of the Kindle’s features, such as the big screen and the ability to store hundreds of case studies and books on the device, most were unhappy overall with the user experience, says Michael Koenig, Darden’s director of MBA operations.
Although the device allowed students to highlight text and make notes, many complained that it was difficult to use these features and said the Kindle was more suitable for casual reading than for the classroom.
In fact, by the second semester, most students had abandoned their Kindles, choosing instead to read case studies on their laptop or on paper. In a mid-term survey, the pilot scheme participants were asked: “Would you recommend the Kindle DX to an incoming Darden MBA student?
“A total of 75-80 per cent answered ‘no’,” says Mr Koenig. Kindle-using students were then asked: “Would you recommend the Kindle DX to an incoming MBA student as a personal reading device?” A total of 90-95 per cent said “yes”.
“What that says to me is that Amazon created a very well-designed consumer device for purchasing and reading digital books, magazines and newspapers,” says Mr Koenig. However, he believes it is not yet ready to take a lead role in the Darden business school classroom.