Let’s say you’re interested in transitioning to an online bookstore. You’re aware that online bookstores offer schools an opportunity to align course materials delivery with 21st century retail expectations.
You know students expect to have the capacity to make important purchases anytime, anywhere. They expect options and price comparisons to appear instantly on a mobile screen. They expect simplicity in ordering and delivery.
If a school can offer all that, then students are more likely to purchase their materials — and more likely to purchase them at school instead of buying from a digital competitor. You know this. Now, there’s only one problem: You need faculty buy-in.
Winning faculty approval for upgrades that affect the classroom is notoriously difficult. Faculty resist, gripe and fret — and not without cause. Most teachers are over-extended. Change can sound like distraction. Most teachers want to ensure the school’s educational mission drives decisions. A change that’s seen as purely profit-motivated will be met with protest. Perception matters.
Even if faculty accepts an initiative, they might show dissent in subtle ways. They could complain to other stakeholders — students and parents — who then absorb the pessimism and stall implementation. The problems administrators hoped to solve are worsened. In this case, if faculty had the idea that an online bookstore brings no educational benefit, customers might look elsewhere for course materials or fail to purchase them altogether.
I’ve worked at a college with an online bookstore and found it immensely beneficial. However, I realize faculty who are accustomed to visiting a bricks-and-mortar store to check on adoption arrivals might balk if they believe a critical part of their course has been removed from their oversight. They might dread the possibility of books failing to appear in a timely fashion. They might even believe administrators’ wish to line their own pockets drove the schools’ decision. It’s critical to ensure faculty receive the right message about the online bookstore.
When you speak to faculty, emphasize:
- Student cost-savings options — Faculty are keenly aware of student budgets, according to a 2016 Nielson study, Faculty Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education. A full 76% strongly disagreed or disagreed with the statement, “New textbook prices are reasonable, considering their value to students’ education.” When searching for an online bookstore provider, select one that makes options available like a marketplace feature, which shows how the bookstore’s prices compare to other virtual vendors’. Highlight the positive impact this will have on student budgets to faculty.
- Students as digital natives —Remind faculty that the bulk of students entering school now are part of Gen Z, a cohort that expects a smooth, simple shopping experience, which often starts on a mobile screen. Gen Z students who encounter friction — like long lines, confusion over price — at a bricks-and-mortar store are more likely to become frustrated and leave. As a result, they might not have the right course materials on time. Sometimes they won’t buy the materials at all.
- Students having the right materials at the right time — A total of 85% of faculty either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, “Students who obtain the required course materials typically achieve higher grades in class,” in the Nielson study. When students buy course materials from an off-campus campus store, they can easily wind up incorrect editions — or even counterfeits. They might also encounter delivery delays, leaving them empty-handed in the early days of class. This frustrates faculty and reduces students’ chances of success. An online bookstore from a partner that can guarantee on-time delivery has great appeal. It will cut down on the possibility that students will show up without the required materials.
Keep these three points in your message to faculty about the transition to an online bookstore. If they’re armed with the right information — and your school selects the right partner — you’re much more likely to gain buy-in for a wise administrative choice.