The push for enhancements to classroom technology always comes at a price. For the students in the School of Dental Medicine, this price can add up to $10,000 to tuition and fees for four years. Starting this fall, the dental school requires students to buy a $1,500 of DVD software instead of printed texts for each of their first four years of enrollment. It combines 120 textbooks onto one disc, and also offers video demonstrations of dental operations such as root canals.
The new technology was adopted after the school discovered that top-ranking institutions were already using the DVD, and that it offers students a resource both more comprehensive and interactive than printed texts.
But, some students complain the conversion is not worth its cost. Many have grievances against the e-book's Macintosh-only compatibility, and complain that the programs are slow and crash frequently. Furthermore, students dislike using e-books because, they say, the texts are so difficult to study from that they instead print the material out or buy traditional textbooks in addition to the required e-books.
The dental school is a professional career training and research facility. This means a cheap education is not a guarantee, and the school should adopt measures that allow it to perform up-to-date research and procedures so its students are equipped with the knowledge necessary to excel in the profession. If streamlining the dental school into a modern research center results in less painful dental procedures and improves the school's academic reputation, then the cost is indeed worthwhile.
Unfortunately, the school's e-book policy does not serve the students as it should. Instead of presenting them with a better learning tool, the e-book exists in a format that makes studying less attractive than ever before. Few students can stare at the glare of a computer screen for more than a few hours at a time without headaches, eyestrain or severe frustration - particularly when attempting to absorb complex material. As a result, they often buy printed texts, significantly increasing their scholastic expenditures.
A better alternative would be for the school to provide students with supplementary video or multimedia material while maintaining the use of traditional textbooks. Additionally, students must run the e-text software on iBooks, which forces those who do not own the computer to purchase one regardless of their platform preference or whether they already own a laptop.
One of the reasons the School of Dental Medicine integrated e-books into its teaching is to maintain its standing among the nation's top 10 dental schools. The result of this development, however, is an expensive learning tool that many students barely learn from. While its aim is to improve the education it administers, and as a result its reputation, the School of Dental Medicine has acted to threaten both. It should not let the gleam of being one of the leaders in educational technology result in becoming lost into the pack in education.