Part 9: Spring 2019 Labs

166 Engage eTexts – 03.15.2019

The Unizin Engage eText platform, currently in a limited pilot, enables instructors to select and integrate an eText into Canvas, reducing materials costs for students and opening up a wide array of possibilities for digital resources, annotation, and communication. At the March 15, 2019 Active Teaching Lab, 10 participants convened to kick off spring break with a discussion of how eTexts are being used on campus, the results of the Engage eText pilot thus far, and what the future may hold for students and instructors using eTexts.


  • Advantages of eTexts include easy updating and content searchability. Downsides can include the demand to constantly update and the temptation for students to just search for answers rather than actually reading the text.
  • With a physical textbook, content is presented and scaffolded within a carefully designed framework. Students typically start with the basics and build to integrate that knowledge into more complex topics. The nimbleness of an eText allows instructors to pick and choose what content to use, but doing so introduces the potential to lose continuity and leave gaps as students try to follow the learning pathway of the course. This shift doesn’t have to be negative, though, if it 1) instills problem solving skills on the part of the students in accessing digital resources, and 2) encourages instructors to map learning objectives and instructional methods with more intent and personalization.
  • eText publishers provide unique digital learning tools (DLTs) that integrate with Canvas courses. The value of these DLTs is that instructors don’t have to create supplemental activities and assessments from scratch, but constraints include challenges with support, customization, and what to do with students who opt not to participate in the eText pilot.
  • By law, students must have the option to opt out of the eText pilot. Currently, emails with opt-out information are sent to students, but this information will need to be available in more locations for students to access once the pilot shifts to production mode.
  • Price is determined by how many students participate, so instructors tend to encourage students to use the eText and its associated content.
  • Other options to control costs for students do exist, such as allowing students to use older versions of printed textbooks or using Kaltura as an open educational resource for course content.
  • In addition to the Engage eText pilot, UW has prioritized a broader initiative to adopt and produce Open Educational Resources.

For more information on Engage eTexts, visit the session’s activity sheet.


The Active Teaching Lab is a Faculty Engagement program with sessions held on Thursdays from 1:00-2:00pm and Fridays from 8:30-9:45am in the Middleton Building (1305 Linden Dr.), room 120. Check out upcoming Labs or read the recaps from past Labs. We build interdisciplinary conversations that are more emergent than a presenter and more dynamic than a panel — a conversation with colleagues sharing challenges, solutions, and experiments on topics selected by a variety of stakeholders.

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Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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