News and Insights on College Textbooks, Course Materials & Bookstore Services

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How Online College Bookstores Create Greater Visibility & Access

Dozens of variables impact how well a college student learns and retains information, and the most obvious factors are the textbook and course materials the student uses.

But until recently, it's been difficult to make a connection between course material content and student success. Knowing if a student has obtained a textbook, let alone opened it, is something that faculty and administrators have largely been unable to monitor or measure.

Purchase, usage, and engagement metrics are important factors that would benefit administrators, professors and students, but have been obscured by the traditional course material model.

However, as more and more course content goes digital and with online bookstores and course material platforms growing in popularity, this level of transparency is now available and providing benefits to everyone from freshmen to faculty to finance administrators (learn more about the 5 benefits universities see after adopting an online bookstore).

How Online Bookstores Improve Visibility for College and University Administrators

Despite making decisions around the university’s operations, expenses, contracts, and more, administrators have lacked visibility over the course materials their faculty assign and their students use.

There’s no one single method for how course materials are adopted - sometimes faculty or department chairs work directly with publishers, negotiating their own deals. Other times, it’s the administrators as well as faculty working with a bookstore or with the publishers. But while faculty rightfully deserve the autonomy to adopt the textbooks they want, this decentralized approach to obtaining course materials prevents administrators from leveraging buying power and negotiating better deals, ensuring valid contracts, and understanding what works for students.

Through an online bookstore, administrators have one vendor to approve who can then manage everything from publisher relationships to ordering physical textbooks and digital content to managing rental and inclusive access models. Importantly, an online bookstore creates a central platform to gain visibility over the course material landscape of their university, including faculty adoptions and purchasing information which become available through a helpful tool.

Seeing which course materials are adopted, whether or not they’re being obtained and used by students, and comparing purchases to student performance provides data that can give valuable insights into future university or professor decisions. Administrators gain crucial visibility over course material trends; they can see if students are choosing used or rental options and if faculty are assigning more digital content than physical textbooks. This insight allows university leaders to tailor their strategies and policies toward student and faculty preferences with real data.

With Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) compliance a real concern, online bookstores help universities get on the right track. Course materials become more affordable, their selection more transparent, and course material information is quickly and easily accessible, meeting key parts of the HEOA. Additionally, administrators have full visibility over which faculty have assigned course materials in a timely manner. Especially useful for ensuring every student has what they need, an online bookstore connects financial aid accounts and course material selection, making it easy for students to gain access to information.

Ultimately, administrators can ensure that students and faculty have the support and course materials they require while remaining complaint with the HEOA.

How Online Bookstores Improve Visibility for Faculty and Academic Affairs

While adopting course materials for classes has been an oftentimes manual and chaotic process, gaining visibility over the price and available textbook formats is another challenge that has impacted faculty and student success.

In other words, faculty may inadvertently choose an expensive textbook that can only be purchased new without used or rental options, a barrier that prevents students from obtaining course materials at a lower cost. Or if a student is able to obtain a used textbook, it will be through retailers like Amazon or Chegg that don’t provide the data on purchase to usage to performance.

In contrast, online bookstores that are integrated with a university can not only streamline the adoption process but also show faculty multiple options for available formats, editions, and pricing, allowing them to select what will best serve and be embraced by students. As the term begins or even prior to, faculty can see which students have not ordered their course materials, send them targeted email reminders, and ensure every student comes to class prepared.

How Online Bookstores Improve Visibility for Students

Ultimately, this visibility benefit trickles down to students. They’re affected by the choices of administrators and faculty—and do their best to order the right course materials that fit within their budget.

When the term begins, students hope instructors have selected options that are reasonably priced and offer flexibility with new, used, and rental options, however, they won’t know until they begin researching.

To choose their materials, students coordinate multiple platforms, online marketplaces, and textbook providers to get what they need. They shop for the best offer, navigating a sea of choices, carefully avoiding outdated editions while questioning if they can get away with a slightly different (and much cheaper) ISBN.

Before the first day of class has even begun, students are wondering how much they’ll receive for their course materials during the end of semester buyback.

At universities that have implemented an online bookstore, their students can easily research and choose what they need in a centralized platform; their course schedules, required materials, and ordering system are fully integrated. Students have instant access to pricing for new, used, or rental options and confidently choose, knowing they’re getting the right course materials.

As a bonus, students gain proactive information through the online bookstore’s guaranteed buyback program. Before they choose their materials, they see a guarantee for how much they’ll be paid for textbooks at the end of the semester, information that influences whether they’ll buy or rent.

Solving the Course Material Visibility Challenge

Online bookstores have created visibility around course materials, replacing old models that only offered confusion, expense, inefficiency, and challenges. As administrators and faculty look for new ways to improve the student experience, online bookstores are proving effective for North Central College, Wingate University, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, and others.

If you’re interested in learning how to research, assess, and implement an online bookstore for your university, contact us for step-by-step guidance.

Online Bookstore, Course Materials Platform, HEOA

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