In the early days of television, broadcasters turned to vaudeville and theater producers to create their programming. These producers simply created vaudeville and theater shows, and stuck a camera in the audience as an afterthought. They didn't understand the capabilities of the new medium, and so did a minimal job incorporating it into their more familiar works. Eventually, it took an outside industry – Hollywood – to produce shows specifically for television, introducing techniques familiar to today's viewers that made for a more effective medium.
College textbook publishers are experiencing a similar situation regarding the Internet. Like the early TV producers, today's publishers continue to make textbooks, and convert them in some fashion into Internet components as an afterthought – vaudeville and theater are replaced by E-books and web sites that offer static illustrations and text. None of these are specifically produced for the Internet, and deviate only slightly from the traditional textbook publishing paradigm.
By its very nature, the Internet is capable of providing far better (and less expensive) learning tools than those currently provided. College students are clamoring for these tools, but the textbook publishers have been inadequate to this task. Clearly, it is up to someone else to deliver on the Internet's promise.
We like to think that that The Smartacus Corporation of Fort Worth, Texas is one such company — a "cinderella story" that delivers the goods with our College-Cram.com website. In many ways, our study programs (or Cramlets™) are more effective learning tools than traditional textbooks.
- Lower cost – College students spend $120 or more on each new textbook. Publishers, who get no revenue from "used" book sales, regularly publish new editions every three years to force more "new" book purchases; often these new editions are little changed from the preceding edition. College-Cram.com offers hundreds and hundreds of its popular Cramlets™ for free.
- Focused learning – Every study program in our library focuses on a single concept, such as calculating sales tax or the structure of the human heart. Students know which concepts they need to study, and need a way to get to them quickly without slogging through other concepts in the chapter that they already understand.
- Effective teaching techniques – Study programs in the College-Cram.com library are presented in ways that best convey the intended concept, often addressing multiple learning styles to ensure the best learning experience. For example, tab-tutor programs include a labeled illustration (for the visual learner), two different ways to work the formula (for the hands-on learner), and a glossary of terms (for reading-oriented learners). In addition, resources that are typically static are presented more effectively in this library. The Periodic Table and Logarithm Tables, for instance, come with instructions on how to use them, while financial statements provide explanations for each line item that are usually buried within the textbook, if provided at all.
- True interactivity – Unlike the E-books and such offered by textbook publishers, College-Cram.com's study programs are truly interactive. Formula-solvers, for example, accept numbers from the student and walk them through the steps required to solve math and science problems. Similarly, financial ratio solvers show the steps and also where to find the proper values on financial statements.
Those early vaudeville and theater producers ended up being replaced by their more effective film producer counterparts, who went on to transform the industry. Will the textbook publishers learn from television's early history, and change their ways before it's too late? Or can websites like College-Cram write their own cinderella stories?
Tune in next week,