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The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Grow Custom: Symtext

CAMEX starts today with the launch of education, and we have our most recent sponsor of the Grow Custom Initiative to announce.  Symtext (CAMEX Booth 6924) has also joined in sponsorship of the Grow Custom Initiative.  Enjoy CAMEX, please stop by the NMS area of the Opportunity Hub to learn more about the Grow Custom initiative and visit our sponsors.
What do you see as the future of custom course materials?

I think we still underestimate the future impact of custom. Every major trend and technological development points toward a growth in custom as a share of the overall market. We aren't looking at a simple transposition of print custom (e.g., coursepacks) to digital but rather a major market shift toward digital custom learning materials. This is driven by everything from devices (which are profoundly altering the nature of demand for learning materials) to publishing processes. The barriers are coming down; we should see more custom business as an overall percentage of the market. Educators, as they realize just how simple it is to produce multi-publisher, multi-format custom learning materials, are moving toward custom in greater numbers. That said, we also underestimate the technical and business requirements of providing a custom digital learning materials experience. It is not enough to offer downloadable PDFs, for instance; the requirement for digital custom learning materials is that they be "always on", device neutral, and social. This creates a set of technical and business challenges that aren't easy to overcome.

What role do you see for stores with custom course materials in the future?

Upon initial examination, the e-textbook market seems a hard one to win for campus stores. The obvious threat is one of disintermediation, driven by low prices and ease of access to e-textbooks. But custom learning materials are different. In many cases, "some assembly required" is the norm, given that many faculty want help and support sourcing, assembling, and distributing learning materials into the classroom. This represents an enormous opportunity for campus stores. It is also the antidote to low cost generic e-textbooks: the campus store can add tremendous value by acting as the assembly, commerce and data hub for custom digital learning materials. The opportunity is at hand to take on a strategic role in learning materials content management -- and, again, the commerce and data that comes along with it -- which includes critical roles in the assembly and distribution of custom digital learning materials. What's needed is more than just a means of delivering custom materials on a course by course basis, but rather a custom digital learning materials platform: a universal solution to a fast growing opportunity.

What makes your product or service unique?  What products or services do you offer in this space?

The Liquid Textbook platform is used by schools -- via the campus store -- to deliver:
  • The ideal mix of chapters, cases, videos, presentation materials, links etc., for every course. Content may include fee-based, open, and self-authored learning materials. All materials are fully rights managed, and supported by our authentication, e-commerce and royalty payment processes.
  • Cloud-based, device neutral, HTML5 custom learning materials. Liquid Textbooks are not tied to a specific device, and are not dependent upon installing and managing software. It's an always-on, stable, secure, and truly online learning experience built around perfectly customized learning materials.
  • Social learning. There are Liquid Textbook applications for online, offline, and device use which are all synchronized in real time: annotations, comments or self-authored materials may be added and which appear immediately to all users regardless of the device they are using.
  • An ever increasing set of easy-to-use tools for campus stores. Building Liquid Textbooks is simple, but we can also add support for custom branding, Learning Management System integration, custom metrics, distribution for faculty authored learning materials, the inclusion of materials from electronic reserves and more. We can integrate with campus store online purchasing, and create unique versions of Liquid Textbooks for each section of a course. Materials may be added during the course itself to create a truly responsive, fluid learning experience. We can even offer differentiated pricing for students taking the same class, which is often a billing headache for schools to solve.
  • Personalized training and support. While the platform itself is easy to use, Symtext provides both technical and business support, so that there is always someone to call, and someone to help you get started.
  • Integration into Print on Demand services.
  • High rates of purchase. We have proven that custom digital learning materials, built to be device neutral and social, maintain their rates of purchase term over term.
Who should stores contact for more information? 
Ian Barker: ian@symtext.com, or via Twitter @irbarker.


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