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Do online textbooks better equip STEM students for success? As the job market becomes increasingly reliant on science and technology skills, students are struggling to keep up. Faced with outdated, boring material in expensive textbooks, many students are overwhelmed and underperform in early science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) college courses and more than half of students don’t achieve their STEM degrees. There has to be a better way to educate students in STEM fields, preparing them for success in the classroom and beyond.

Instead of simply putting textbook pages online, computer scientist Frank Vahid created zyBooks, STEM material native for the web, using “less text and more action.” ZyBooks include question sets, animations, interactive tools, and embedded homework so students learn by doing the work. The research is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and Google. A study found students using zyBooks showed improvement in all aspects of performance including raising letter grades. Starting with just a few universities in 2012, zyBooks are now used by over 200 higher education institutions and are expanding to serve high school curricula in order to earlier engage young minds in STEM studies.

Frank Vahid

Professor, Computer Science and Engineering Bourns College of Engineering


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