The Washington Post recently explored the revolution in college course materials in an article published on April 14, 2018. The article investigated questions about cost, fairness, and access for students as they grapple with high prices and adapt to changing technologies.
After the spring back-to-school rush, our friends in the independent campus store industry come together for two key conferences, the Independent Collegiate Bookstore Association annual meeting (ICBA) and the National Association of College Stores Campus Market Expo (CAMEX). At these conferences, store leaders and staff learn from industry thought leaders, and each other, and discover new tools to help their stores contribute to the mission of their institutions.
While there’s plenty of cool “front of the store” merchandise on display at ICBA and CAMEX--one can acquire a collegiate branded spatula, or team spirit cowboy boots--the store leaders we work with are focused on something more critical than game-day attire. For the campus store folks focused on course materials, the mission is improving affordability and student outcomes. Increasingly, college stores are the driving force behind lowering the costs of course materials. While their per-unit margins may be shrinking, campus stores are stronger and more valuable to their institutions than ever before.
Across the nation, a growing number of colleges and universities are looking for innovative solutions that can help lower costs and raise student achievement.
One of the many challenges in higher education is the cost of course materials and textbooks. Print textbook costs have risen 82 percent over the last decade – that’s more than three times the rate of inflation. These high costs have led a growing number of students to delay or avoid purchasing required course materials, even though they know their grades will suffer as a result.
As a father or two young boys, I recently attended parent-teacher conferences where my children went through stations showing their recent work. When we reached the computer station, my techy self was appalled. Not because of antiquated technology, but because my son had to dig through a bag of 25 passwords to find the correct credentials for both the computer and his reading courseware. As I watched him dig to find his login details, I thought of how frustrating the process must be for teachers and students, and how much time is wasted that could be spent learning.
Unfortunately, the story isn’t much different in higher education. Applications from various providers all require different logins, passwords, access codes, or course keys. When we think about improving learning outcomes with adaptive learning, analytics, and personalization, we often forget that the first, and most important step, is making it easy for the learner to access these great new learning tools.
It is an exciting time at VitalSource as Kathleen Hayes, a 25-year ed-tech veteran, has joined us as our new Director of Institutional Partnerships. Kathleen will lead our U.S. and Canadian higher-education efforts, for both VitalSource and Verba, to grow Inclusive Access and to accelerate affordability and the digital revolution in course materials. Kathleen has built a career driving affordability in course materials, coming from zyBooks, helping to improve learning through digital learning solutions, and prior to that, Verba, where she focused her efforts on providing tools for colleges stores to grow affordability initiatives.