As part of a pilot program, NOLS sent eight eReaders into the field this fall with semester courses. Each eReader weighs less than a paperback and carries a big library, including most NOLS books.
An eReader is a device that can read eBook files. An example is the Barnes and Noble Nook or the Amazon Kindle. Most eReaders can carry about 2GB while each eBook is about 6MB. That means one of these light eReaders can contain more than 300 books at a fraction of the weight!
James said his eReader holds 23 pounds of books but only weighs 7 ounces. Several NOLS books are already available, including student texts and some instructor course books.
The eReader that NOLS decided to test is the Barnes and Noble Nook. It weighs 7.3 ounces, has a six-inch e-ink screen, can store 2 GB, has wifi and USB connectivity, and has a battery life of two months if used only 30 minutes a day.
The pilot semesters were two fall Semester in the Rockies courses. They tested the usage and durability in the field. Only one broke in 192 user days. The batteries performed well and lasted the entire course or charged with solar chargers. They were a little sluggish in the cold, but once warmed up in a sleeping bag worked great. Instructors and students, alike, were receptive to the idea of eReaders on courses, and many discussions and much data analysis will follow to determine the next phase of their incorporation.