25 April 2013

Just keep using the tablets : medical student challenges publishers

Publishers at UKSG 2013 were entranced by medical student Joshua Harding’s description of how he uses an iPad to create a personalised study environment and intrigued that he predicts better ebooks will lead to better grades.

 “I see the iPad as being the game changer” said Joshua, a 2nd-year postgraduate student at Warwick University.  Although he admitted that not all students on his course were as far advanced as he in using the tablet computer, he finds acting as a mentor to them encourages uptake. “Students are ahead of the game” he claimed, and publishers and librarians lagging behind.

The self-proclaimed Paperless Student took the audience through his typical day on wards and in lectures, explaining he uses his iPad to take case notes, look up anaesthetics, check online references during lectures and set himself reminders to revisit recently studied topics.

He collects all his course materials together via the iPad, preferring chapters to whole textbooks.  For his written (not typed) notes he uses Noteability and for PDFs he uses Goodreader. He synchs files to other devices via Dropbox.

The publishers also got Joshua's wishlist, including making student scores for revision sections visible online, so each can see how theirs matched to others, and for messages to pop up and congratulate the student on completing a topic well, or reminding him/her to go back and revise newly learned topics. Meanwhile the thumbs down was for multiple platforms, DRM and the Epub format (“horrible”).   

While publishers flocked to the lunch table to digest the assured presentation, librarians 
wondered how the heck Joshua got all his textbooks on to an iPad?  The answer was he'd bought much of it himself via Inkling, and for the rest he had a generous friend who disbound and scanned in textbooks as PDFs for online annotation.  Hmmm.  No wonder Joshua had said he thought universities should pay for all student resources, and had been at a loss to understand why his library couldn’t provide “free ebooks in the same way as print”.

Post-match analysis suggests Joshua is clearly on the cutting edge, particularly in how he manipulates content using apps. Dymvue is still wondering how libraries fit into this picture.  We do, don't we? Don't we?

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