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Why Aren't Students Acquiring Course Materials?

Posted by Dean Asher on Jun 18, 2015 10:54:00 AM
Topics: Higher Ed, course materials, custom course materials

They significantly improve learning outcomes, and students who buy them say they found them useful. We all know it's important to make sure students have the right course materials in hand by the beginning of classes, but term after term, there are students who simply don't acquire the materials they need to be the most successful they can be in the classroom.

Administrators, teachers and store officials alike recognize this is a problem, but to find the right solution, we should investigate why. 

The numbers suggest that the majority of college-level students are still acquiring at least some of their titles. Only 3.7 percent do not acquire any course materials according to OnCampus Research®'s Spring 2014 Student Watch™ survey, which polled more than 11,000 students from 16 four- and two-year schools. The majority also see the value of their titles, with 56 percent of students saying their course materials are "very" to "extremely" useful.

But 13 percent of students didn't acquire materials they believed to be "unnecessary." Student Watch found that for the most part, students who do acquire their textbooks do so at least a few days before class — 60 percent of upperclassmen and 80 percent of two-year students. However, 40 percent of upperclassmen are waiting until after classes begin to acquire their books whereas just 19 percent of underclassment do.

The reason for this, the survey found, was that upperclassmen were waiting both to have time to shop around and to see if their titles were necessary. This may save them money on some titles they won't need to succeed in class, but for the majority who do find their course materials useful, they've now had a number of class days without them. This also means they are trying to acquire the titles they need when many stores and vendors have reduced stocks or may even be sold out, meaning it may take them even longer to acquire their titles, they may pay more and they may be stuck with a price or format option they don't prefer.

These of course can all have negative impacts on both a student's learning outcome and bank account.

One important way schools can prevent this issue is to overall be more conscious in adoptions — making sure every required title is truly required and will be fully used in the classroom. Custom titles and course packs may be a good way to accomplish this. If a professor is only using a few chapters from one title, many students will likely view that title as unimportant. By combining those few chapters with others to create one comprehensive, fully-used custom bundle for that class, students will have fewer titles to acquire and will know that they'll use what they buy.

Another problem students cite is that textbooks are just too expensive. Student Watch cites most students are buying out of pocket, while a study by Student PIRGs, a student public interest advocacy group, found that 70 percent of students choose not to buy at least one textbook per term due to cost.

There are a growing number of cost-saving options schools can choose from to help students save. Open Educational Resources offer lower-cost alternatives on many titles. Enabling options like Rental and Marketplace pricing in the Online Bookstore can also save students a significant percentage off of the list price.

To find out about available options for your online bookstore and help improve learning outcomes for your students, contact your Account Manager.

About Dean Asher

Dean Asher is a former copywriter with MBS. Though he no longer writes for us, he is still proud of having helped this blog continue to evolve as an industry-leading resource of news and original content.

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