Portrait image of Vern Duba

How familiar are students with eTexts? How do digital materials affect students’ access to content?

When Vern Duba, clinical assistant professor in the UI College of Pharmacy, added two supplemental resources to his first-year pharmacy course, he opted to deliver them through ICON Direct, the University of Iowa's initiative for ordering eTexts and online learning platforms from specific publishers and delivering that content to students.

Since Duba selected open educational resources (OER) for his course, the content was free to students. While they weren’t required to read all content within the supplemental materials, Duba incorporated specific chapters for an assignment.  

While the ICON Direct program is known for delivering required eTexts or courseware platforms to students at a discount, it can also distribute OER materials to ICON course sites. These materials are delivered in a robust eReader platform that provides additional reading tools to students.

Duba and Vicky Maloy, assistant director of OTLT Academic Technologies, surveyed students about their experiences with digital course materials and the ICON Direct program and its e-Reader at the end of the semester. Of the 91 students in the course, 85% responded.

The anonymous survey asked students questions like:

  • Have you read books online before?
    • 93% responded that they’d read books online prior to the course.
  • Have you previously used a dedicated eReader software/app to read your electronic books?
    •  63% said they’d previously used dedicated eReader software.
  • Do you feel like you have more access, just as much access, or less access to your book when it is digital instead of print?
    • 91% said they had more or just as much access to the digital book.

“Students are so technologically savvy and can easily maneuver from platform to platform,” says Duba. “They’re often familiar with e-Text platforms, so I didn’t receive any feedback about negative experiences.”

The survey prompted students to indicate what features they’d explored, with the most popular being:

  • Highlights. Easily mark important text using one of four colors.
  • Notes. Quickly add notes to eTexts to clarify content, add detail, and more.
  • Bookmarks. Mark important content for future review.
  • Personalized display options. Customize the font, font size, letter spacing, display colors, and margins.

“It doesn’t surprise me that students liked the notes and highlighting features,” Duba says. “Several indicated that they’d used the flashcard feature, too. It’s a common studying technique for this course, and I’m already considering how to introduce it going forward.”

Order Digital Course Materials in ICON Direct

To ensure timely access to required course materials, orders must be finalized before the semester starts. Ideally, instructors and department administrators should complete all orders in MAUI prior to early registration or, at the latest, four weeks before the semester start date. For summer 2023 and fall 2023 semesters, the textbook order deadlines are April 17 and July 24, respectively.

To order ICON Direct course materials, instructors or department administrators can log in to the ICON Direct Ordering Tool or email ICON-Direct@uiowa.edu