The higher education access equation is unnecessarily complex. It should be as easy as: faculty assign required materials and students have them on or before the first day of class. The issue is that, while these materials are “required,” students are left to their own devices to navigate the maze that is the course materials market. That variable brings affordability, ease of access to learning opportunities, and consistency of experiences both online and offline into the equation. A solution to the access equation must address all of these issues.
A little over thirty years ago, my life—and the lives of tens of millions of Americans—was changed in immeasurable ways by the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Coming of age in a world where ADA was the law, I was free to imagine and pursue opportunities that were previously impossible for people with disabilities, including visually impaired people like me.
While the Internet has made possible unprecedented access to quality digital course materials, it has also provided infrastructure for some to commercialize stolen content and others to scam students with too-good-to-be-true pricing. We are heading towards the start of a fall semester where the demand for affordable digital materials will be higher than ever. This presents an attractive and target-rich environment for illicit sellers.
I’m honored to share that VitalSource recently earned a maximum ASPIREscore of 100% for high-quality accessibility standards, and our company now sits at the top of the ASPIRElist of platforms. While we’re proud we have achieved this goal, we’re even more motivated to explore the next frontier in accessibility.
The cost of postsecondary education, from tuition and living costs to technology requirements, can be a major barrier to learners and stand in the way of pursuing a degree or credential. It is well known, that pricey textbooks and course materials can add further strain to students’ limited budgets. Navigating a confusing and complex course materials marketplace to find the most affordable options wastes far too much time and energy and ends with most students either delaying or declining to acquire the materials they need.