When it comes to being prepared to learn, having textbooks and course materials on the first day of class seems almost a no-brainer. Yet with the cost of college textbooks increasing 82% over the past decade, students are finding it ever harder to meet this simple expectation. As the overall cost of higher education skyrockets, not all college-related expenditures incurred by students today are proportional to their purchasing power. According to the American Enterprise Institute, over the past three decades, the cost of textbooks has risen almost four times as much as the Consumer Price Index (CPI):
Simultaneously, institutions are bundling library content charges into student fees, though this educational material accounts for 10% or less of what is actually used by students throughout their education career. The end result is that students have unlimited access to content they might not necessarily use, and limited or no access to required textbooks and course materials that are essential for success in their classes.
On a student budget, a $300 textbook is a prohibitive expense. Seven out of 10 students in a recent survey by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) reported they had not purchased a textbook at least once due to high prices. As prices climb, students have found other ways around spending thousands on texts, not all of them legal. In a Spring 2013 report by USA Today, 34% of students reported downloading course content from an unauthorized website. For students who look to eTexts as a cost-saving alternative, navigating access codes, logins and passwords can be time-consuming, confusing, and frustrating. Altogether, the hoops students must jump through to ensure they have their texts on the first day of class can be a cumbersome ordeal, oftentimes resulting in a lack of preparedness.
Paying the Price
Not having textbooks on day one may be a reality for many students, but it is not one that comes without a price. In a study by the US PIRG, of over 2000 students, 65% reported not purchasing a textbook for class. Of those students, 94% said they were concerned about their grades being affected as a result of that decision. In many community colleges and for-profit institutions, a major cause for dropout is the student’s inability to purchase content on time, or even purchase it at all. Repeated studies have shown that student involvement in the classroom is critical to student success and retention. Furthermore, when students are actively involved in learning and sharing their learning with others, their engagement is even more enhanced. Without access to required course materials, student learning and success can be stunted.
Institutions concerned about how the impact access to course materials has on retention and success are working with Courseload on a model that bundles the cost of educational resources into student registration at an affordable price. Through a single-sign-on integration with their Learning Management System, students are able to access their entire course content digitally from Day 1 with a simple click of a button, eliminating the need to manage additional log-ins and passwords.
Within Courseload Engage, instructors can enhance content-mediated learning with annotations, highlights of important concepts, homework questions, and many other features that help guide and promote student reading. Early studies show positive results both from Day 1 access to all content and early and frequent engagement with instructors. A recent study at Berkeley College found a 12.5% increase in retention among their first year online students, a portion of which can be attributed to the fact that these students had the content on day one.
College is difficult enough without adding obstacles associated with affordably obtaining textbooks and other course materials. Why not make them available on the first day at a reasonable cost and, while at it, enrich the content-mediated learning experience with a Learning Engagement Platform like Courseload?