Like any teaching and learning resource, the great library of free e-books available to further education colleges is only of value when it's in use, books are being read and learners' needs are met.
The opportunities presented by e-books are great.
They can fulfil shortfalls in libraries' physical resources (and budgets), provide up to date and curriculum-focused titles at no extra cost, and make texts accessible to remote learners as well as those on site.
Getting used to using e-books and encouraging learners to do the same, however, might feel like just another thing for the to-do list, another thing to look at when you get a spare five minutes (ie never).
So, we've been speaking to our FE members already working extensively with e-books to solve challenges across their colleges, to find and share simple ways to turn free e-books for FE from a resource with potential to one that delivers great value.
1. Ready-made visuals
Diagrams, tables, graphics or text can be projected on to the whiteboard to annotate and build on throughout a lesson.
This can save time creating a presentation, plus you'll be using a resource that learners can access themselves at a later date.
2. Flipped learning
E-books make it easy for learners to access texts ahead of a lesson, particularly if you rely on a number of different textbooks throughout the year. This means you can set learners the task of reading the relevant material before the lesson, increasing contact time in class. This frees up valuable time in lessons to teach effectively, and students will become more competent independent learners.
3. Printed editions as sign-posts
If you have a printed edition of the book, a QR code or URL on the cover can direct users to the e-book so that, when they go to read it or check it out of the library, they'll see how to access it online - ideal when an entire cohort needs access to the same text and you only have one or two copies.
4. Mobile handouts without hassle
Replace photocopying pages of textbooks with sending learners a URL and a page number.
This saves time and resources, plus it'll make the materials easier for learners to access and harder for them to lose.
Learners with tablets and smartphones can access them from their own devices, helping them to become more confident with studying independently.
5. Accessible revision resources
For learners who spend the majority of their time off site, or tend to choose the twilight hours to start revision, not having access to books straight away can be a significant obstacle.
Revision plans that include resources in e-books remove those barriers and encourage more non-conventional learning.
This can also maximise your time spent teaching and supporting students by reducing time spent creating revision resources that already exist.
6. Posters for the classroom
Materials for promoting e-books to learners are freely available from ProQuest. Print them out, put them up. This will help students get the most out of this free service.
7. Join the JiscMail list for e-books
A simple way to stay up-to-date with the latest news about e-books for FE is to join our JiscMail list.
As well as a monthly newsletter from Jisc, you'll also become part of a FE community of e-book users sharing success stories and suggestions for best practice.
And one for students…
The better students' digital literacy, the more effective their independent study will be. Being well-versed with the e-books on offer can reduce the amount of time students spend on Google sifting through a range of blogs, wiki pages and texts to find reliable material.
Many online resources can be helpful, but they do not always provide the information that students need for their exam board. With e-books for FE, you can be certain that your students are accessing high quality, reliable, academic information that is tailored to their required exam board, and often endorsed by the exam board too.