You likely saw the New York Times article on explosive Computer Science growth and difficulties departments are facing. Several of us professors grew tired of publishers underutilizing the web and instead pushing their textbooks (some with clunky web enhancements) — with big price increases to boot.
So in 2012, we did something.
Together with fellow CS/CE professors, we set out to create new CS/CE content natively for the web. We formed a company, zyBooks, and charged a fair price to ensure quality, service, and scalability for instructors and students. The content is interactive: thousands of animations, learning questions, and embedded coding homework, plus an integrated program auto-grader, all in one cloud HTML5 product. It’s been a massive effort of 60,000 hours of content and platform work — no exaggeration. We very gratefully acknowledge two NSF SBIR Phase II grants, and a current Department of Education SBIR Phase I, that supported our research and development efforts.
Here’s How Things Turned Out
500,000 Students Currently Using The Platform
By 2018, we had 180,000 students annually and 500,000 students cumulatively across 575 universities and colleges using our ~15 CS/CE zyBooks, mostly for lower-division subjects.
Teachers and Students Are Happier
Auto-grading features mean teachers can handle far more students; one chair told us that a professor for the first time returned a TA. The interactivity means students are learning more and are happier too. See our research papers for the studies we’ve done on those topics.
Students Are Performing Better
At UC Riverside, where one of our co-founders is a professor, CS1 handles 1500 majors and non-majors a year, with outstanding grades, very low D/F/W rates, student evaluations in the top 15% of all UCR classes, and ultra-efficient TA/grader usage (who have more fun too). A professor at another school told us that in 30 years of teaching, there were always some students who dropped her class until she switched to our content.
We embarked on this project to help students and instructors. If your faculty isn’t using zyBooks, we humbly suggest you ask them to take a look. We’re committed to helping departments deal with growth, with a dual purpose of improving student success, and from all data so far, our web-native interactive content is helping a lot.
For more information, see our website. If you’d like a research talk and/or company presentation for your department, email co-founders Frank Vahid at firstname.lastname@example.org or Smita Bakshi at email@example.com
Co-founder, zyBooks; Prof, UC Riverside
VP of Content, zyBooks; Prof, University of Arizona
Sr. Software Engineer, zyBooks; Research Specialist, UC Riverside