A new semester means new beginnings and new changes, whether it be through classes, living situations, friends or jobs. This semester, the beginning of University of Wisconsin’s new eText program will change our prime learning method for the better.  Around 3,000 students will participate in the new program, which encompasses 16 classes and spans across five colleges. eTexts will become available through the Unizin Engage platform via Canvas. Students involved in the program can access the eTexts throughout their time as a UW student. The program will likely continue in further academic years because eTexts are extremely beneficial to students’ health and finances.

The debate between eBook readers and traditional lovers of physical copies has raged for years. But when it comes to college textbooks, online texts are clearly the easiest choice. Firstly, online texts are cheaper, which significantly cuts down the massive costs of college and extraneous learning materials. According to Steven Cramer, the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, UW students spend $1,200 on textbooks per year. Because of the extreme cost of textbooks, many students refuse to buy textbooks unless they absolutely have to. This causes them to miss out on critical information in the first few weeks of the course. The introduction of eTexts reduces the cost of textbooks by 40 to 80 percent, according to Cramer. Students are more likely to use an eText towards the beginning of the semester because they are cheaper. eText usage throughout the semester will lead to better grades and more success.

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Not only do eTexts make academic resources easier to obtain, but they are also easier to use. Instead of flipping through pages searching for a specific term, eTexts allow a student to search for the most minute details. Students are also able to take notes and highlight directly in the text, which is not possible in a rented physical copy of the textbook. These features have the potential to create better note-taking habits. Better note-taking makes studying easier and more effective. The accessibility of eTexts makes for more effective learning, more prepared students and a better university.

eTexts also help lighten the physical load of college textbooks. The average weight of a textbook is around 4.8 pounds. Many professors actually require students to bring their textbooks to class — a textbook or two, coupled with the weight of binders, notebooks and a laptop are ridiculously heavy. Experts say a person should not carry more than 10-15 percent of his or her body weight. Without eTexts, students may be carrying much more weight than they should. A heavy backpack may distort the natural curves in the middle and lower back, which causes muscle strain and irritates the joints in the spine and ribcage. Heavy textbooks also cause the shoulders to round, and a person’s center of balance to shift slightly forward, making it easier to fall during the icy Wisconsin winter. The usage of eTexts will reduce backpack weight, thereby making students healthier.

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Despite all the inconveniences physical textbooks create, our habits of using them do not necessarily equate to a broken system. Students have survived and thrived while learning from an actual book, and those who do not want to buy it still tend to pass the class. But if we can be better, why shouldn’t we? eTexts allow students to perform better in the classroom through easier note taking, and out of the classroom through lightening the weight of backpacks, therefore improving health. The system may not be broken, but we can still improve it. The new eText program is the first step towards innovation.

Abby Steinberg ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science and intending to major in journalism.