The Move To Digital: Breakdown of the Big Three in Digital Learning Platforms

Move to Digital
As with any new technology, it can be tough to navigate the territory. As a starter, I’ve rounded up three of the top digital learning platforms getting the most attention today: Xplana, Inkling and Kno.

1. Xplana

Xplana is a great source for those who have access to the Internet. Xplana offers free e-textbooks for a wide range of courses online. Xplana is purely online, and it offers more than textbooks. Xplana plans to turn its platform into a social network of sorts, allowing students to help one another while utilizing the resources on the site. Xplana has released an app for Android, as well as an app for the iPhone, that will allow students to access their materials on the go, as well.

What others are saying:

“Just as new devices have helped spawn the growth in e-books, Xplana also points to some significant developments around open educational resources (OER) and open textbooks. States and institutions have embarked on a number of OER initiatives to help address the affordability and availability of textbooks, including Washington State’s Open Course Library project, a program that aims to make core college materials available on the Web for less than $30 per class.” Read Write Web

“Launched in 2010, Xplana.com currently has more than 400,000 educational assets – e-books, open educational resources, and curated content – available to its community of users in a wide range of subjects from agriculture and animals to English and languages, science and computer science and non-academic areas.” Taxo Diary

Pros: Since Xplana is online, it’s easy to access, and doesn’t involve carrying anything extra around.  The fact that it’s free is perfect for starving students who don’t need any extra monthly fees or the like. The apps for both Androids and iPhones make it so that students can access what they need at any time, since most people usually carry smartphones these days.

Cons: There isn’t an app for Blackberry yet, but one is in development. Also, people who can’t afford computers or smartphones don’t have as easy of a time using Xplana, even though it is free.

2. Inkling

Inkling is one of the more popular digital learning platforms. While Inkling only performs on an iPad, its interactive and collaborative exercises make it fun and easy to use. Without the hassle of having to lug around your heavy academic books, Inkling provides a cheap and “green” way to study. With amazing features, such as the ability to share notes with friends and professors, Inkling offers a real student union.

Since the company is small and relatively new, it doesn’t have too many textbooks available yet, but both McGraw-Hill and Pearson have backed Inkling, which could give it an edge on the competition. Inkling’s main goal is to make it so that the textbooks seem like they were made for the iPad, and are making a huge effort to produce high-quality digital textbooks, according to Venture Beat. Rather than keeping the books exactly like they are in print, Inkling aims to add things like puzzles where there were formerly static pictures. This sort of addition could really help students remember what they’re learning. Inkling is only available to for iPads, which may or may not change in the future.

What others are saying:

“Inkling’s technology delivers interactive textbooks that include the ability to collaborate, add multimedia and communicate within content. The startup adds another layer to online textbooks by adding 3-D objects, video, quizzes, and even social interaction within the content. Inkling’s sync technology lets students collaborate in real time by sharing their notes and highlights with one another. And students can see comments from their friends and professors right alongside their own notes.” TechCrunch

“ACU students were given the iPads for this year’s pilot program. After using them, three-quarters of freshman say they’d be willing to buy their own tablets, if at least half of their textbooks were available on the iPad.” Times Of Texas

Pros: The multi-faceted learning experience offered by Inkling can help enhance memorization and involvement in the text. Also, Inkling offers the sale of books by the chapter, which can be great for students whose professors only assign a few chapters of an extremely expensive book.

Cons: Inkling is only available for iPads, which can hinder people who don’t want to pay for an iPad on top of their book expenses. Also, because the company is still so small, there isn’t a huge selection of books available yet. If a student doesn’t have their iPad with them, they can’t access Inkling, either.

3. Kno

Like Inkling, Kno is also an interactive digital learning platform for the iPad. With functions such as Words to Friends, and Chapter preview, Kno is using digital learning to help higher education in a more efficient way. Kno makes it easy for students by providing over 70,000 textbooks at a cheap price.

Kno originally developed a book-shaped tablet made specifically to upload all of their textbooks into one spot. The original Kno tablet features two 14.1 inch hinged displays, which basically act as pages of the textbook. There’s also a downloadable Kno app for the iPad, making it possible to use the software without the Kno tablet.
The app for iPads was an important step for the manufacturers of the Kno, since the tablet wasn’t selling very well against competition from the iPad and Android tablets, which are lighter and more aesthetically pleasing. The future of the Kno lies in how well the iPad app sells, which will be based primarily on the format of the books and the availability of books.

What others are saying:

 “All in all, though, the Kno textbook app is pretty solid and will compete based on the breadth of its textbook selection and pricing. It certainly beats lugging around a backpack full of books.” TechCrunch

“Kno, the app’s developer, claims that Textbooks has the world’s largest selection of digital textbooks and PDFs, and boasts over 70,000 titles. However, the most appealing thing about Textbooks – for me, at least – is the price-factor. Any college student will happily moan about the cost of physical, paper textbooks. With Kno’s app, users can download and read digital textbooks at up to 50 percent off the book’s original price.” AppAdvice

Pros: The Kno tablet is formatted like a book, with two pages, so it’s easy for textbook publishers to transfer material to the platform, according to an article published by MIT. The large selection of digital textbooks is the clear advantage with the Kno.

Cons: The Kno tablet is extremely heavy, weighing 5.5 pounds, according to a TechSpot article. It’s no surprise the company shifted focus!

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As more and more tablets, online textbooks, and services are introduced to the public, it’s hard to choose which one is right for you. It’s always important to do research, but sometimes sorting through the mayhem can be difficult. Of the big three learning platforms, Kno and Inkling are very similar, especially with Kno’s switch to focusing on software rather than hardware. Xplana is solely online and accessible through smartphones, which makes it easily attainable, and it’s free.

Have you tried out any of these services? What are your thoughts?

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