The Direct Network

Tips for Increasing the Amount of Digital Content in Your School

Posted by Carrie Watkins on Dec 9, 2016 5:30:00 AM
Topics: digital content, mbs direct, K-12

As more schools are bringing more technology into the classroom and encouraging students to have some kind of device as part of their in-class learning, it makes sense that students can access their course materials on that device as well. While publishers are converting more of their newer content to a digital platform, there is still a lot of material that is only available in a low-tech format.

Here are a few suggestions to increase your percentage of digital course materials for next year:

1. Understand what you are trying to achieve: lower cost, additional learning tools for students or simply a lighter backpack.

While not everything is available digitally, there is enough out there to cover a core curriculum. Whether it covers what your faculty want students to learn is another story.Tips for increasing the amount of digital content in your school for the coming year.


  • If you are looking for an inexpensive option, find the material with the lowest sticker price that still sets a solid backbone for the course and supplement it with open educational resources to hit the points the book misses.
  • If you are more concerned with adding functionality and engagement to your content, find a platform or two with the tools that you want your students to have. Any digital content platform should have highlighting and the ability to take notes. Many platforms will allow students to export their notes and highlights into a usable format – so students can create study guides or easily add citations to a paper. Also look for collaborative tools such as sharing notes with other classmates, embedded resources such as videos and links and analytics. 
  • Taking one or two of those heavy books and putting them on a device can take five pounds out of a student’s backpack.
  • If you are looking to replace a few of your core materials, staying with your adoptions should give you a couple options for digital content.
2. Familiarize yourself with what "digital content" means: eBooks, access codes, course packs and open educational resources.

Digital content means different things to different people. Are you talking about a static PDF, where students can’t do anything but read the document? Are you talking about an access code to a publisher portal with videos, assessments and other resources? The material that MBS Direct can provide to current partners includes eBooks, access codes and digital course packs.

  • For the purpose of a common vernacular, eBooks are commissioned by a publisher, written by a subject matter expert, and distributed by a publisher. eBooks are accessed through a platform with learning functionality, such as highlighting and note taking, which is the primary difference between eBooks and a PDF of a book.
  • Access codes are a series of letters and numbers that give the user access to a publisher portal. Access codes are different for each publisher, both the portal and the resources housed there. These resources often include supplemental material that correspond with the textbook, such as additional projects, assessments and sometimes even a digital copy of the textbook. Some access codes require set up by the faculty member prior to the start of class, including most Pearson and HMH codes. Most access code products do require the student to be connected to the Internet in order to access the material.
  • Course Packs are collections of curated content, pulled together by a faculty member or course designer, which we then work with vendors to clear for copyright and provide in either a printed version or a digital version. Depending on the vendor, the digital version can be accessed through a browser, or through a mobile app.
  • Open Educational Resources (OERs) are materials found on the web and created by other faculty or subject matter experts. OERs are considered open because the author allows other people to use, mix and customize the material at little or no cost. To know if the material you want to use is open, use a site that expressively gives permission, such as Khan Academy, and Newsela. Many non-profit organizations have pre-made lesson plans available, such as The National Park Service and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many authors will also use the Creative Commons logo to specify how the material can be used, for example if it just needs attribution and if it can be used for commercial purposes. You can find more information at
3. Ask your faculty how tied they are to a specific adoption.

Would they be willing to look at new editions of the same book? Would they be willing to look at a different title entirely? Publishers are jumping on the digital bandwagon, continually growing their catalog of available titles. However, converting a title to a digital format is an investment so publishers are only converting their most recent editions. Using the most recent edition of the titles will give your faculty members the most availability. But not all titles are available, so if faculty members are willing to look at other titles in the subject matter, chances are they will find something available digitally. We can always provide samples to faculty members so they can make sure the title matches their curriculum.

4. When you've found a digital title you like, make sure it works with the device(s) your students are using.

If it's an access code, will it work well on a tablet? If it's an eBook, will it work on all platforms, including the ones your students may have at home? Be sure to ask your access code provider how the product works specifically on the device your students will be using, and get a sample to try just to be sure. Some publishers have wonderful animations on their portals, but if they are flash-based, those animations won't work on an iPad. Some publishers have apps for mobile devices to help with that, and that's good information to know up front. Most eBook platforms work across devices, with apps for mobile. Even if your school is dedicated to a particular device, such as an iPad or a Chromebook, your students may need to access the book through a different device at home or while traveling. Making sure the eBook platform is available however the student needs to use it can help your students be successful.

The MBS Direct Digital Content Solutions Group will be hosting the webinar, “Navigating Your Content Options,” on Tuesday, Dec. 13. You will learn four digital solutions designed to save your students money and provide them with the right course materials when they need them.

Register Now

About Carrie Watkins

Carrie is a former digital consultant for MBS Direct, who specialized in traveling around the country to learn about new products and services MBS Direct can provide to partner schools and bringing those ideas back into the office to work on with the digital solutions team.

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