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.
None of a student’s cognitive load should be dedicated to course materials acquisition. Yet, 94% of students report that paying for textbooks is stressful. According to a 2019 Morning Consult study commissioned by VitalSource, over half of students (51%) say paying for textbooks and course materials has “a big impact” on their finances. Too often, students struggle to afford the course materials and textbooks that are essential to their success in the classroom.
While students spend most of their lives online, COVID-19 has added an extra layer of complexity to this already challenging situation, exposing the need for solutions that are not only more affordable but also more accessible—both online and fully offline—for students that don’t have reliable internet access.
Multiple reports confirm that the “digital divide” remains a major barrier to effective remote learning; the Federal Communication Commission estimates that more than 20 million US families do not have home internet access. This digital divide has a disproportional impact on rural, low-income, and minority students. According to the nonprofit Brookings Institute, “Broadband adoption rates in Black and Latino or Hispanic households lag behind white households by 6.8% and 3.4%, respectively.” This means that offline access to learning materials is not only a convenient feature, it is imperative to student success.
At VitalSource, we recognize our responsibility to help improve students’ access to affordable learning experiences. We’ve focused on simplifying the process of finding, obtaining, and engaging with required course materials. We’re helping more learners access their required materials faster and at a lower cost to avoid the maze of online retailers. We make sure students can access their materials without relying upon an internet connection. Content can be downloaded on multiple devices, so students can continue to study anytime, anywhere.
Students shouldn’t be forced to overpay for the textbooks they need to complete their studies or grapple with limited access to their materials. They shouldn’t have to waste hours scouring the internet and bookstores for the lowest price either.
How can we continue to progress in access maturity? Take a moment to learn more about ways we’re working to solve the access problem and ensure students can affordably and seamlessly get the materials they need to be successful in the classroom.