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Textbook app to revolutionise university learning experience

28 May 2013

Image courtesy of adamr /

The world's first interactive digital textbook to cover an entire university course has been developed by a University of Sydney Business School lecturer and is now being marketed internationally as an iBook app for iPad.

The digital textbook titled "Negotiation: Science and Practice", is expected to revolutionise the delivery of university courses. It is based on groundbreaking Apple technology and is said to represent a "paradigm shift in how university courses are taught".

The new app is the brainchild of the Business School's Quintin Rares, and comes as universities around the globe are being forced to reconsider their teaching methods by competition from increasingly popular online courses.

"Interactive apps mean that valuable face-to-face time is not wasted with professors reciting basic content while students scribble down what they can," said Mr Rares. "With the full lecture included in the app, the three hours of contact time available for teaching in each course can be used much more productively."

"The time can be spent in role-play negotiations, debriefs of those negotiations, workshopped problem solving, discussion, feedback and the kind of interaction that cannot be delivered through online courses."

"Innovation through interactive apps will ensure that contact time remains relevant and differentiated from purely online-offered courses," says Mr Rares, who is the Business School's postgraduate Unit of Study Coordinator in Business Negotiations and is a practicing lawyer.

Mr Rares now uses his digital textbook in all classes he teaches. "At the tap of a finger, my students can access glossary definitions, manipulate interactive diagrams and inform themselves of the latest science by downloading updates."

"They can also answer quiz questions and receive instant feedback, review course work using flash cards and turn to bibliographies with summaries of almost all journal articles cited in the text, which publishers usually shun because of printing costs," said Mr Rares.

Describing some traditional textbooks as "disgraceful", Mr Rares said that they often fail to analyse the science that underlies a negotiation technique or a strategy.

"They instead give students a one-line summary of a study and a single example of where that study might apply," he said. "They do not show students how the principles in the study can apply to a wide variety of scenarios and, as a result, this must be covered in lectures, which wastes the limited contact hours."

"I asked myself, 'what if I could make a textbook that could interactively take students through all the content they needed to know, then use the extra class time to tackle the most challenging applications of those learned skills and let students practice those skills in marked role-play negotiations?' So I did."

'Negotiation: Science and Practice' is now available for download through 50 Apple iBook Stores around the world each of which have given it a five star rating. Mr Rares says that most sales have been made to customers outside of Australia.

A free 'sample', which includes week 1's lecture and the textbook's 300-odd page glossary, can be downloaded from Apple's iBookstore.

"This digital textbook will teach students how to think as much as it will teach them about negotiation," Mr Rares concluded.