With brick and mortar schools (well all schools for that matter) I have learned that the budget is one of the biggest concerns. With the introduction of e-textbooks for a fraction of the cost of print, it allows for students to have a copy of the book that they are able to access from school and at home while saving money in the budget that could go towards something else. I have most of my students choosing to go for the online e-text versions of as many books as possible because not only are they saving money (they have a certain amount they are able to spend on texts and resources each year) but they are also reusable just like print versions and are not going to have the same amount of “wear and tear” as a print book. This is also helpful for the online
learning student who has more than one sibling as the family is able to purchase the copy of the book once and use it for all of their children (in the case of one of my families, that is eight children) before giving it away or selling it.
As a teacher a big benefit of having e-texts is the opportunity to copy a page and send it in an email or post it on a program such as Blackboard to walk a student through a problem they might be having, which eliminates the problem of having to have a scanner to scan and then attach a page and creates more work for all involved. Obviously this would not work to do for the entire textbook but when a student does not live in driving distance to get help, it would eliminate some frustration. I have also found it helpful at the beginning of the school year when resources and texts do not get to my students in a timely manner, I am able to change my personal password for my copy to a student password and give them access to my copy until they receive theirs.
The big downside that I can see with purchasing a book and then using it for many years is the fact that I find a lot of publishers change one or two things in a textbook and then reprint the textbook as a new edition. Although this means that you may have students working from two different editions, the changes I have found to be very minimal so it is more possible to work with. As a teacher this is where having e-versions of texts is nice because you are not having to purchase a full price text and find room for it, but instead you are just having to buy a code or CD that costs less and takes up less space.
There will always be shifts in online learning and the resources and tools we use and I am interested in seeing where that takes us and how it helps support us as teachers in the online learning community as well as our students.