Often times when considering custom course materials, cost savings to students tends to be a prominent argument. While cost savings continues to be a major concern for students and schools, a recent survey conducted by XanEdu, Inc. confirms that customization enhanced by digital solutions can reduce a broader set of challenges today’s faculty face in meeting student expectations.
Despite the lower than expected digital textbooks sales over the past decade, some possibly surprising student opinions come to light in this survey. It’s clear from these survey results that the format of course materials is becoming increasingly important to students. 50% of students say they prefer some form of digital access to their course materials including laptop/desktop, tablet and smartphone and more importantly for faculty, nearly 60% said they would be more likely to use their course materials if they had digital access. Despite digital textbook sales plateauing in the 5-10% range, this survey shows that today’s college student is seeking a convenient format of hybrid course materials, which gives them the ability to choose print or digital access at a specific moment of need. This may shed light on a simpler path to improving student engagement and outcomes. The more convenient faculty can make access to content the better for student usage.
The modern student has roots in tradition but is evolving with technology and craves a personalized learning experience. In fact, faculty who continue to use expensive, traditional textbooks are being viewed negatively by students more often. This survey showed 57% of students said they would rate a course as “somewhat more negative” or “much more negative” if a professor assigns an expensive resource. Faculty have an opportunity to proactively drive down the cost of their course materials to impact the students perspective on the quality of their course.
While many universities are beginning to promote the use of more cost-effective course materials like OER, the decision to adopt ultimately falls onto the individual instructors. For faculty, cost reduction for students is compelling, but the process of revamping an entire course with OER course materials is labor-intensive and time consuming to most who are already experiencing time and resource constraints. Unfortunately, 50% of college students still believe that their university or college isn’t doing enough to control the costs of course materials.
Schools that find ways to help their faculty more easily drive down the cost of course materials through customization and alternative course materials should see an immediate increase in students who have access to/ownership of the material. Additional data collected by XanEdu shows that sell through rates are correlated directly to the price of the material. For Atlanta Technical College, the sell-through rates increased from 68 to 100 percent over two school years after employing XanEdu course materials.
Beyond accessibility and alternative content, a large percentage of students find more value in collaborative learning strategies. According to the same survey as above, 44% of students prefer working collaboratively as opposed to solitary study. This data tells us that students want and expect a more personalize learning approach across the classroom including the course materials.
In summary, the data shows clearly that students want and expect an interactive and collaborative learning experience. Course materials that enable collaboration and learning at the moment of need can significantly improve a student access and opinion of the quality of the course and school’s support.