This blog is dedicated to the topics of Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education. it is intended as an information source for the college store industry, or anyone interested in how course materials are changing. Suggestions for discussion topics or news stories are welcome.

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Friday, May 31, 2013

Kiosk Enables In-Store E-Book Sales

Booksellers and librarians attending BookExpo America in New York City this week will no doubt be stopping by the OverDrive booth to take a peek at its new Media Station kiosk. The device is essentially a touchscreen, mounted on a wall or standalone base, on which consumers can preview e-books and MP3 audiobooks and then buy or borrow them on the spot.

As OverDrive’s press release describes it, the Media Station is intended to provide an in-store—or in-library—way for people to browse e-book titles in the same location where they browse print books. OverDrive has one million titles available, mostly trade, from hundreds of publishers. Consumers can view or hear the first chapter of any title.

For more than a decade, OverDrive has offered a solution for online direct sales of e-books and digital content, but about a year ago, shortly after buying the Booki.sh cloud e-book platform from Australia’s Inventive Labs, it announced plans to develop the Media Station kiosk.

At that time, the Media Station was touted as a device intended for libraries. It was piloted at a public library near OverDrive’s Cleveland, OH, headquarters. However, it may have more potential for bookstores that already have e-commerce in place, as the kiosk can be integrated with the store’s web solution.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Five Tech Factors Changing Education

“We have reached a ‘perfect storm’ with the alignment of five key factors that are driving new excitement and enthusiasm for leveraging technology to transform teaching and learning,” proclaims the latest Speak Up survey report, released in April by Project Tomorrow.

The annual survey, in its ninth year, measures usage and opinions of technology in the classroom and at home from thousands of K-12 teachers, students, and parents in the U.S. While the survey doesn’t address technology in higher education, Project Tomorrow sees signs that the growing use of tech tools at K-12 levels does influence higher ed, especially as more students arrive on campus with expectations about technology and coursework.

The five transformative factors cited in the report are:

  • Greater understanding of the potential for technology to help schools meet curriculum standards.
  • More parents, teachers, and administrators using mobile technologies for personal and professional purposes.
  • Funding cutbacks forcing schools to seek technological solutions to save money or raise revenues.
  • Technology creating a bridge between home and school, allowing parents to take a more active role in education.
  • Employers pressing schools to turn out tech-capable graduates.

The report notes all five factors have existed for some time now, but only recently have they approached a tipping point. “Like puzzle pieces, these five factors support one another, but also display unique characteristics that affect the readiness of some schools and districts to move forward with their plans for digital conversions,” says the report, while asking whether schools are prepared for conversion.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Big Data's Power Lies in Profiling

“Big data” is one of the hot buzzwords circling the business, technology, and education sectors these days. It’s not really a new concept—the smart players have been collecting and crunching numbers and data points all along—but system enhancements are making it possible to gather more data than before and more people are becoming aware of the power of data analysis.

In his Thought Leader educational session at the Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) 2013 in Kansas City, MO, Michael Wesch offered an anecdote that illustrates that power. He is the associate professor of cultural anthropology, Coffman Chair for Distinguished Teaching Scholars, Kansas State University, Manhattan, and U.S. Professor of the Year.

Wesch told the audience that a colleague became incensed when Target sent his 15-year-old daughter a mailer touting pregnancy and baby products. The colleague complained at the local store. A few days later, he returned to apologize. “It turns out Target knew the daughter was pregnant before he did,” Wesch explained.

Target didn’t actually know that, but had surmised the situation when the daughter bought two particular products at the same time. Purchased separately, the products meant nothing. But purchased together, according to Target’s data profiling, indicated there was a high probability the consumer was expecting. The dual purchase automatically triggered Target’s targeted mailer.

The anecdote shows that big data involves more than simply counting up consumer actions. The real value is in correlating data to create a profile of future actions.

In the education world, Wesch noted, software developers are trying to build similar profiles of student learning behaviors. He cited a couple of examples: Learning management systems, such as Blackboard, are exploring the huge potential in the big data they collect on users. The Knewton adaptive learning platform employs data analysis to guide learners through progressive levels of questions.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Online or On-Campus, Quality is Key

With all of the recent hullabaloo over massive open online courses (MOOCs), digital textbooks, and online learning systems, some people might come to the conclusion that these developments are brand-new and that the traditional form of higher education—based on a physical campus—might evaporate any day now.

Professor Kel Fidler, with 50 years of experience in the academic world and currently a director at the online learning provider Resource Development International in the U.K., sees it differently. In a piece for The Telegraph, Fidler points out many universities have been successfully engaged in online courses and digital content for years.

Although Fidler’s piece discusses higher education in the U.K., his comments could also apply to North American higher ed.

He views online courses, whatever their size, as providing more options for educational institutions and for students, but he doesn’t think they will or should take the place of on-campus learning, in part because some courses need in-person interaction. But the real foundation for any type of instruction, Fidler says, is quality.

“My experience has shown me that, whatever the delivery model, success relies on the same fundamental principles of quality teaching, content, and experience—and this is where I believe the debate about MOOCs often misses the point,” he writes.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Money Makes the Apps Go 'Round

What’s the quickest way to get app developers interested in creating educational applications? Flash a wad of cash.

That’s essentially what Instructure is doing, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. The company, creator of the Canvas learning management system, has partnered with a number of other LMS companies to offer a “bounty” for the development of the best new educational apps using the Learning Tools Interoperability standard (LTI).

LTI enables apps to run properly on different LMS platforms, eliminating the need to construct separate apps for every platform.

The “bounty” is being offered in the form of a competition that concludes June 10. Every submission that meets the eligibility criteria will receive $250 and the best ones will get $1,000.

The competition is intended to attract developers’ attention to opportunities and needs in educational technologies. “It’s become clear that ed tech does not have the type of ecosystem that other sectors have. It’s hampering innovation,” Instructure founder Brian Whitmer told The Chronicle.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Campus Networks Have Limited Protection

Not surprisingly, some 85% of K-12 and higher education institutions in the U.S. and U.K. permit students and/or instructors to log into institutional networks from their own computing devices, according to a new survey from Bradford Networks, says an article in Campus Technology.

What may be surprising, the article adds, is that most of these institutions are somewhat lax in their security measures.

The Bradford survey found more than half don’t make their users install antivirus software first and two-thirds don’t have the ability to determine who’s connecting to their network.

While 61% of the responding institutions do limit what certain users can access on their networks, the rest give all of their users unfettered access to all parts of the network. Twenty-seven percent don’t even require users to register before accessing the network.

But campus IT departments are already aware this is a problem. Supporting the bring-your-own-device trend and the related security challenges is the No. 2 issue on the Top Ten IT Issues of 2012 report from Educause. The report notes it can be difficult for schools to balance security and privacy with the need to provide access to information and resources while supporting an ever-widening array of devices and platforms.

Another challenge is that some budget and policy decisions are out of the hands of IT staff, and are not always a priority for those with decision-making power.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

E-Tailers Try Out Same-Day Delivery

Some major retail companies are testing same-day delivery of online orders, according to the National Retail Federation’s Stores magazine. Even though consumers haven’t been clamoring for such a service yet, these companies apparently think it’s just a matter of time before they do.

That’s because free delivery is the main thing that induces shoppers to buy more online, even more than lower prices, or so says Baden Consulting Group’s 2012 consumer survey. Free delivery in two to 10 days has become so pervasive that some people won’t shop at sites without it. Before long, they might have the same attitude about same-day delivery.

Same-day service is most likely to be successful in urban areas where companies already have stores, warehouses, and/or suppliers in close proximity to a higher concentration of purchasers. From the consumer perspective, it should be fairly easy to process web orders, pull and pack the merchandise, and deliver the whole shebang to their door within a few hours, if not sooner.

Companies know there’s much more to the logistics than that, but consumer perception may prevail—especially since it’s the coveted millennials age group (18-34) that’s been using same-day delivery the most so far. Some 12.5% of millennials use same-day delivery “very frequently,” the Stores article noted, compared to only 4.2% of all consumers.

Colleges and universities should take notice. Like urban cities, campuses are packed with millennials. If Amazon and Walmart can manage same-day delivery, what’s to keep millennial students from fully expecting the same from the campus bookstore, food service, library, convenience store, tech shop, snack bar, or any other campus enterprise?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

E Ink, Sony Team on Flexible Reader

It appears reports of the demise of e-ink have been greatly exaggerated.

E Ink Holdings has introduced a new flexible electronic paper display (EPD) technology that will be used by Sony in its new large-format e-reader. The company claims the new display is more durable and can weigh up to 50% less than other display screens.

The new Sony product is a 13.3-in. e-reader designed for students. At just 12.6 oz., the new device is much lighter than a 10.7-in e-reader using an LCD screen. The screen also is flexible, or at least the image provided to TeleRead appears that way.

“Flexible can mean different things to different people,” Giovanni Mancini, director of product marketing at E Ink, told TeleRead. “In our experience in working with E Ink’s direct customers and in talking to end consumers, the feedback we received was that they wanted a product which was lightweight, rugged, and conformable to a not-flat surface.”

Monday, May 20, 2013

Open Course Library Expands Free Content

Advocates of the Open Course Library (OCL) estimate it has saved students about $5 million on course materials in just a few years. Now, the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges has expanded the library’s offerings to include 81 of the most common community college classes.

The OCL project, funded by the state legislature and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, brought together state community college faculty to create online textbooks and course materials that are freely accessible and open to any student across the nation, not just those in Washington.

At Pierce College, Lakewood, WA, 500 students have used OCL text in precalculus and other math courses and achieved similar success rates to students using traditional textbooks, while saving about $50,000 in textbook costs, according to David Lippman, a Pierce College math instructor who helped develop the open material.

“I was fearful about taking a strictly online course, especially one dealing with math since I haven’t taken a math course in over 30 years and the online option was very new to me,” Terri Questi, a Pierce College student who took a Lippman math course using OCL content, said in a release. “The course was well organized with clear requirements and grading system, helpful videos to supplement the text, and responsive instructors who replied quickly.”

Friday, May 17, 2013

DOJ, Apple Prepare for Price-Fixing Battle

Since all the publishers involved in the e-book pricing lawsuit have settled, Apple has become the lone target for the Department of Justice (DOJ), which released court documents depicting the computer giant as the leader of the alleged conspiracy.

The government contends Apple and five publishers—HarperCollins Publishers, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, and Penguin Group—conspired to force Amazon to raise its prices from $9.99 for an e-title through its agency pricing plan. Apple is portrayed as the driving force behind the model that let each publisher set the e-title price instead of the traditional wholesale pricing model, where retailers buy the title at wholesale and charge whatever they want, even if it’s at a loss.

Government documents point to e-mails from late Apple CEO Steve Jobs that talk about creating a market for e-books at the higher prices and messages that suggest Apple threatened to block e-book apps from Random House if it did not take part in the plan. The court documents also quote Penguin CEO David Shanks as saying Apple was the “facilitator and go-between” in arranging the agreement.

Apple paints a very different picture in its court filings. It said the publishers were already trying to find ways to force Amazon to raise its e-book prices independent of Apple, that it only became involved after approaching the publisherswith the iPad and its online bookstore, and that it required separate and different agreements with each company.

“Early—and constant—points of negotiation and contention were over Apple’s price caps and 30% commission,” Apple said in its 81-page findings of fact. “After Apple sent draft agency agreements to each publisher CEO on Jan. 11, each immediately opposed Apple’s price tiers and caps.”

Even some Mac enthusiasts are even having a hard time buying the Apple line, in particular, MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer.

“I’m betting that Apple knew that the way forward was to reset customer expectation on the value of an e-book at a reasonable and stable price,” he wrote. “This worked with music and movies. Why not with e-books, too?

“However, this price was higher than what Amazon (and the e-book average selling price) was at the time. Effectively, Apple’s entry raised the price of e-books for consumers—hence the gaze of the DOJ.”

The case is scheduled to go to trial on June 3.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Issue of Online Cheating

Online education is viewed as an important tool for providing affordable instruction to a greater number of students. One issue that could derail the whole idea is a perception that cheating is widespread and easy to accomplish online.

Online colleges already employ technology that can monitor a student taking a test through webcams, remotely lock computer browsers from the Internet, and track typing patterns, all in an effort to guard against cheating. Unfortunately, all a student needs is a hidden cheat sheet to foil even the most state-of-the-art tool.

“Security is incredibly important,” William Dornan, CEO of the test-monitoring firm Kryterion Inc., told eCampus News. “If it’s known you can cheat, that completely dilutes the brand.”

Some software uses biographical information for identification checks and can determine when an answer to a difficult question is given at the same speed as an easy one. But other procedures are much less high-tech.

Online programs at the University of Maryland and community colleges in Colorado use small-scale assessments instead of high-stakes final exams and urge using online resources that can alert instructors to sudden changes in a student’s writing or chatroom posts. EdX gives its exams to students seeking credit at commercial centers with proctors.

“I think online education can definitely work, but everyone has to cooperate and give it a chance,” said Teresa Lane, a library manager who is a volunteer proctor for The University of the People.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Multitasking Really Can Be a Problem

Research has shown that electronic devices in the classroom can be a distraction that can result in lower grades for the student and even disrupt nearby classmates. Now,  Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University-Dominguez Hills, has shown that students multitasking while studying—checking e-mail, looking at Facebook, texting, etc.—don’t understand the topic as well and remembers less.

In “Facebook and texting made me do it: Media-inducedtask-switching while studying,” Rosen had researchers follow 263 students ranging in age from middle school to college. The researchers went into the students’ homes and recorded what each was doing while studying.

“We were amazed at how frequently they multitasked, even though they knew someone was watching,” Rosen told Slate magazine. “It really seems that they could not go for 15 minutes without engaging their devices.”

Part of the multitasking problem, according to Rosen, is that texting, e-mailing, and posting on social media sites are mentally complex. In addition, a study from University of Michigan psychology professor David Meyer found the brain can’t perform two complex tasks at the same time.

“It can happen only when the two tasks are both very simple and when they don’t compete with each other for the same mental resources,” Meyer said. “An example would be folding laundry and listening to the weather report on the radio. That’s fine. But listening to a lecture while texting, or doing homework and being on Facebook—each of these tasks is very demanding, and each of them uses the same area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.”

However, researchers understand students aren’t going to stop using their devices anytime soon. Rosen suggests two-minute “tech breaks” after about 15 minutes of uninterrupted schoolwork. He has found that students can extend the amount of time they spend studying, as long as they know the break is coming.

“Young people’s technology use is really about quelling anxiety,” he said. “They don’t want to miss out. They don’t want to be the last person to hear some news, or the ninth person to ‘like’ someone’s post.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

MOOC Deal Makes Low-Cost Content Available

Lost in the hoopla over massive open online courses (MOOCs) as a cost-saving alternative for higher education is the expense of course materials. Coursera and Chegg have partnered on a pilot program that will make e-textbooks available for no cost and still provide each company with the opportunity to create a revenue stream.

Students will be able to get e-textbooks, or at least required chapters, through Chegg for selected Coursera courses for free. Students won’t be able to copy or print the text and it will only be available for the length of the course.

“Many instructors have been feeling a little hampered by how they must make their courses so self-contained,” Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Even $40 for a textbook is way out of reach for some students, so instructors have had to teach in ways they are not used to. They are unable to rely on any readings outside the public domain.”

According to reports, content will be made available on the Chegg e-reader that has been embedded into the Coursera platform, making it easier for students to find the required materials. Publishers participating in the program are Cengage Learning, Macmillan Higher Education, Oxford University Press, Sage, and Wiley & Sons.

Coursera and Chegg hope to monetize the partnership by selling the textbook or an abbreviated Coursera version to students. The companies would receive a percentage of the money from the sale, similar to how both earn commissions on books sold through Amazon.

The publishers will profit from sales of the content, as well as from data collected from the e-reader versions.

“Because the free versions of the books will be read through an e-reader, we’ll also get information about usage,” said Stuart Johnson, executive editor at John Wiley & Sons. “How students use the electronic text, how they use the materials, will be tracked through software.”

Monday, May 13, 2013

OpenStax Set to Double Free Offerings

Rice University professor Richard Baraniuk started OpenStax College to improve student access to quality online learning materials. A new grant has the nonprofit organization ready to up the ante.

OpenStax College will use funds from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to double the number of titles in its free online textbook catalog by 2015. In addition, the publisher wants to capture 10% of the college textbook market by offering free online textbooks for 25 of the most popular college courses, which it estimates could save students around $750 million over the next five years.

“With student debt at an all-time high, it has never been more important to make education more affordable,” Baraniuk said in a release. “Our textbooks do that—not just because they are free, but also because they are every bit as good as books that cost $100 or more.”

OpenStax already has introductory textbooks in physics and sociology that have been downloaded more than 70,000 times. It is set to release two new biology books and an introductory anatomy book in the fall.

The publisher will use the grant money to add textbooks in precalculus, chemistry, economics, U.S. history, psychology, and statistics. OpenStax said it spends more than $500,000 to develop a textbook, using content developers the major publishers use and hundreds of faculty reviewers to vet each title.

“Quality is the key,” Baraniuk said. “We believe the reason instructors have been slow to adopt open-source textbooks in the past has been that the free options weren’t all that attractive. The rapid success of our books over the past year bears that out. If you offer a quality book for free, people will jump at it.”

Friday, May 10, 2013

Streamlining Online Course Requirements

Differing state regulations make it much harder for students to take online courses from institutions in other states, according to recommendations from the Commission on the Regulations of Post-Secondary Education. To solve the problem, the commission proposed the adoption of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA).

The group estimated it can cost a public university $5.5 million to accept distance learners from across the United States and it could cost a community college more than $76,000 to set up a course available to students in five neighboring states. 

SARA would address the issues by providing a way for states to standardize the regulations governing online courses, make it easier for colleges and universities to offer them in multiple states, and ensure the quality of those classes for students.

“The approval of SARA has a long way to go once it gets vetted and approved by state legislators, but we are hoping it passes,” Nancy Coleman, director of distance learning at Boston College, told Information Week.

The numbers of students taking distance courses should increase if state legislators adopt the voluntary recommendations, according to Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. Currently only Delaware, Hawaii, and New York do not belong to one of the four regional compacts on higher education. The 47 other states met in April to study the report and begin the adoption process.

“We know some states are uneasy about expanding their online offerings,” McPherson said. “It costs a lot to comply with regulations all over the country. This will make it easier.”

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mobile Devices More Than a Distraction

Mobile devices can be a distraction in the classroom. Teachers know it and studies have shown that gadgets not only distract users but also peers sitting nearby. But there are some on campus who are starting to understand it’s all about how the devices are being used.

“We are trying to figure out the place of mobile devices all across campus,” Christopher Clark, assistant director of the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning, Notre Dame University, South Bend, IN, told Campus Technology. “Faculty have to realize the world is changing and people are using mobile devices in new settings. I dislike banning technology from the classroom altogether. Laptops are not banned in the real world, so I think we are in some sense doing a disservice to students by not teaching them their proper use.”

What’s needed is education and clear guidelines, according to Clark. Students need to understand appropriate behavior concerning the use of laptops and smartphones in class and faculty members should be willing to tell students when it becomes annoying.

“What we are seeing is more syllabus inserts that address how mobile technology will be used in the class—with a clear pedagogical rationale,” said Matt Kaplan, managing director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

CRLT research has found that while mobile devices in the classroom can be disruptive, students also report a higher level of attentiveness, engagement, and learning with professors who integrate laptops into their teaching. Michigan professors have seen an increase in communication with students, who use their laptops for collaborative writing and peer review through the use of Google Docs.

While education and guidelines from instructors help, institutions may need to step in.

“It may be time to have the discussion about whether there should be a blanket policy,” said Bethany Wilcox, a graduate student from the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has studied the impact of cellphone use during class on final grades. “We may have hit the point where the university has to address that question.”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tablet Sales Taking Over Mobile Market

Having previously ditched their desktop computers for laptops, U.S. college students will most likely follow global trends for mobile computing and trade in most of those laptops for tablet PCs. A new quarterly forecast from NPD DisplaySearch anticipates tablet shipments will rocket from 256.5 million worldwide this year to 579.4 million by 2017.

Students have already expressed a preference for lightweight technology they can easily tote all over campus. Like other consumers, they also have a penchant for touchscreens, one of the reasons they’re gravitating to tablets. Another is the availability of inexpensive no-name brands.

According to NPD, these lower-cost “white-box” brands, many made in China, will constitute about a third of all tablet shipments. Despite the cachet of owning an iPad, Galaxy, or Surface, many purchasers don’t mind an off brand if they can save big. And a cheapo model is less likely to be a magnet for theft.

Notebook manufacturers are producing more hybrids, sliders, and convertibles that aim to offer the best of both laptops and tablets. These machines allow users to essentially toggle back and forth between laptop-style computing and a tablet touchscreen. Some models have a single screen with a switching system. Others have dual screens, with the touchscreen detachable. For a look at these gadgets, check out an overview earlier this year by The Wall Street Journal’s Walter Mossberg.

While shipments of notebooks with touch capabilities are minuscule at present, they are expected to grow by leaps and bounds over the next few years, while shipments of nontouch notebooks shrink, the NPD report said.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Study: Students Take Easier Courses Online

A small study, Choosing Between Online and Face-to-Face Courses: Community College Student Voices, found students often choose traditional classroom instruction for courses they believe are difficult, such as science and math, rather than take the same class online. Flexibility and convenience are the main reasons students prefer online courses, particularly nontraditional students with jobs and family, but they prefer the interaction with instructors and peers of the traditional classroom setting for subjects of special interest.

The research, done by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teacher College, analyzed information obtained from interviews of 46 students from two unidentified community colleges in the U.S.

“Most students felt they did not learn the course material as well when they took it online,” the report said. “For most students, this deficit was due to reduced teacher explanation and interaction; for some respondents, the weaker student-student interaction was also problematic. As a result, students did not want to risk taking difficult courses online and preferred richer experience of the face-to-face classroom when learning about subjects they felt were particularly interesting or important.”

Students said they preferred a more traditional setting for courses such as math, lab sciences, and languages, because “they needed the immediate question-and-answer context of a face-to-face course,” according to a report in eCampus News

Monday, May 6, 2013

Some Obstacles in Using OERs

There’s a lot of hype and plenty of expectations in higher education surrounding open educational resources (OER). Those expectations are one of the hurdles that OERs must overcome.

“OER should be a source of inspiration for innovation and creativity in the world of college course materials,” Brian Jacobs, president of the virtual bookstore Akadémos, wrote in an article in Campus Technology. “When that happens, the sky will be the limit for the OER movement.”

Jacobs said OERs must become “as good or better” than content now being commercially produced in order to gain acceptance. But first, faculty must learn how to develop open course materials and get past doubts about the quality of free resources.

He also said institutional processes and a lack of tools to help faculty find and assess the materials must be changed or developed from scratch.

“It’s not enough for institutions, foundations, and even the federal government to produce these open resources,” Jacobs said. “There has to be a way for the OERs to be discovered, evaluated, and used effectively in the classroom.”

Friday, May 3, 2013

Is 3-D Printing Just a Fad?

Will 3-D printing be the future of educational technology or is it just the latest fad? As prices for the units fall, more schools and universities are pondering the possibilities. This PBS video shows how it works and may offer some answers.

Watch Will 3D Printing Change the World? on PBS. See more from Off Book.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Imagining a New College Store

Albert Greco, professor of marketing at Fordham University, has predicted the market for printed textbooks will tumble about 95% by 2017. While that certainly paints a bleak picture for bricks-and-mortar booksellers, it doesn’t necessarily mean college stores should transition completely to being clothing outlets, according to Tony Sanfilippo in his Content Storage Unit blog.

Sanfilippo imagines a new campus store that partners with the library to offer students the option to either purchase or borrow their course materials. Librarians would be in charge of distributing the books and would help faculty find lower-cost or free alternatives.

He sees a store that utilizes a patron-driven acquisition business model where publishers find campuses with the most interest in their new text and make it available essentially on consignment basis for a fixed number of months. Stores would also become a dedicated place on campus where students and faculty go to locate alternatives to commercial publishing.

“Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with textbook prices, perhaps all faculty already see all the new scholarship in their respective fields at conferences, and maybe writing and publishing centers aren’t something campus communities need. Maybe,” Sanfilippo wrote. “But it seems much more likely that what most folks on campuses don’t need is another opportunity to purchase a tee shirt.”

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Up for Discussion: Future of Course Materials

Not so long ago, the textbook supply chain looked something like this: An author, often a professor, would write a textbook. A publisher would edit and print it. Faculty would select the book for class. The campus bookstore would order it. Students would come to the store to buy a copy. If the store could snag used copies, students would buy those first.

The digital era upended all that. And as new technologies emerge, there will be even more disruptions to the supply chain. No one knows how it will all turn out.

In an effort to encourage a broad and open exchange of views, ideas, and information about course materials delivery and digital content, NACS has launched an online discussion for all interested stakeholders. That includes campus bookstores, faculty, administrators, publishers, intellectual property experts, and any others who want to contribute to the conversation or monitor developments. You don’t need to be a NACS member to participate.

This new Collaborative Industry Discussion—dubbed Course Materials, Digital Content, and Supplying the Campus Community—is expected to focus more on higher education but may also explore trends in course materials for K-12 and lifelong learning.

The discussion will be housed within NACS’ new online community, The Hub. If you’re not a NACS member, you must register for login credentials first. Once you have set up a password, join the discussion community by logging into The Hub and clicking “Join Communities” in the Discuss and Share menu.

Discussion participants can receive and post messages to the group, browse archived messages, and share documents in the library.