Elearning vs. Textbooks in a Business Computer Applications Class: Which is Better?

Two of the most popular types of instructional materials for a Business Computer Applications course are textbooks and interactive eLearning curriculum. In working with hundreds of educators who teach this type of course in middle or high school, we often hear questions asking which is better. Each type of instructional material has its own pros and cons, so in this article I will review both types and see how they compare.

Based on common questions and issues we hear from teachers, I will focus on 3 specific categories when comparing textbooks to interactive eLearning curriculum for a Business Computer Applications course:

  • Ease of Implementation
  • Student Engagement
  • Relevant and Current Information

Category: Ease of Implementation

Very often when a teacher is looking for new instructional materials, an important focus is how easily they can start using the resource in their classroom. Most teachers don’t have hours of extra time to learn how to incorporate a brand new curriculum in their lessons. We have heard many stories like this from computer applications teachers:

“I just found out I would be teaching the class, and we have no curriculum and school has already started!”

An educator in this type of situation certainly does not have a lot of time to learn a new resource before introducing it to the classroom. So how do our two options compare for ease of implementation?

A textbook is a comfortable option for a teacher when it comes to new instructional materials. Textbooks are often the first choice for any teacher, because they are easy to get started with. When using a textbook, what you see is what you get. It is easy to jump in since students are used to reading pages and taking notes. However, with a textbook you may need to review it in order to prep your lesson plans and activities, if those resources aren’t provided for you.

Digital curriculum can be a comfortable option for a computer teacher. Many curriculum providers strive for a simple, intuitive LMS to keep the learning curve low for teachers getting started. One way an eLearning curriculum can save time and help with classroom implementation is they very often include ready-made lessons plans. Though keep in mind there is some work to do up front to make sure your curriculum is set up for when students arrive and log in to the system.

Final Thoughts: Both textbooks and eLearning curriculum have pros and cons related to implementation speed and ease of getting started. As with any instructional material, each option does have it’s own type of work needed upfront. For a quick start with students as soon as you receive the material, textbooks do have a slight leg up.

Category: Student Engagement

Keeping Students Engaged in Your Business Computer Applications Class

A large challenge for every teacher is finding ways to keep students engaged and interested in the topics being taught. Comments like this one come to us from computer teachers across the country:

“I am currently teaching Microsoft Office / Excel… Microsoft Office lessons can be boring and unmotivational. I am looking to engage the students in an exciting way and make real world applications.”

When talking about student engagement, blended learning and differentiation often come up. As our Product Team Manager, Ken Richard says: “The key to student engagement these days is variety in instruction. You have to blend a lot of different things together.” So when it comes to variety and engagement, how do these two stack up?

Unfortunately a traditional textbook can really fall down in terms of variety. With a paper textbook, you have text and images that students read and look at. This can become monotonous after some time. Some computer applications textbooks do include activities for students to complete on the computer, but this still includes a lot of reading and repetitive work. You can provide variety by adding extra activities and outside resources, but this will take time.

Interactive eLearning curriculum is often built with the idea of “variety leads to engagement” as a key foundation. Because the content is digitally provided, the interactive lessons can have a number of activities and extra resources to create variety in what students do. Another reason digital curriculum is more engaging, is rather than simply reading text and completing tasks, there is often more hands-on learning where students are thinking and making a decision.

Final Thoughts: Interactive eLearning curriculum has the advantage for keeping students engaged, without spending extra time finding additional resources.

Category: Relevant and Current Information

In a Business Computer Applications course, having current information is very important. So important that it is probably the most common frustration we hear from teachers. These are just two of the many comments we have heard about outdated content:

The biggest challenge is keeping up to date with all of the new and ever-changing technology and finding lessons and projects to keep student interest up.”

“Our textbooks are very outdated and with moving from [Microsoft Office] 2013 to 2016 soon it does not make sense to get more.”

You’re teaching students about technology, so ensuring your instructional materials are up-to-date with current technology is seemingly a no-brainer! So what will give you more up-to-date content?

Luckily for teachers, many textbook publishers are good at releasing new versions of their textbook when a new version of Microsoft Office comes out, or another big change in the industry happens. Not so sure? Some of the textbooks listed in this article are for different versions of Office: A Review of 7 Popular Microsoft Office Textbooks The downside though is that a new version means purchasing that book again just to get your updates.

eLearning curriculum really takes the cake with staying up-to-date with changing technology. Because the content is digital, updates are made frequently and are seamlessly integrated into the lessons your students are already using. There is no need to wait for the next edition or install an update - it is all automatic.

Final Thoughts: While textbooks do come out with newer versions, the waiting game can be painful for a teacher using outdated curriculum. For current content, you’re probably better off with eLearning curriculum.

Which is Better for Your Business Computer Applications Course?

While it seems that interactive eLearning curriculum may edge out the traditional textbook, don’t let this article be your only deciding factor on a new resource. There are more than just 3 things to think about when choosing new materials for your classroom. For a more in-depth look at these and other options out there, check out this article: How To Decide on New Instructional Materials for Your Computer Applications Class

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November 03, 2016