NEXT: The Rise of Inclusive Access

The learning landscape is changing — and it isn’t just a trend.


Integral to the transformation of 21st-century education, course materials are evolving and expanding, including not only traditional print textbooks, but digital models such as OER and courseware. As Generation Z (Gen Z) enters college looking for new ways of learning, institutions are searching for solutions to help lower the costs of course materials and prepare students for the first day of class. Some colleges and universities are meeting that challenge by shifting the emphasis from print to digital, using an inclusive access model.


Major education publishers, including Pearson, McGraw-Hill Education and Cengage, report that inclusive-access programs are seeing significant growth on college campuses in recent years. Where students were previously assigned textbooks — and responsible for finding and purchasing course materials on their own — schools can now provide discounted digital course materials to the entire class. The “inclusive” feature of the model means that every student receives first-day-of-class access to their required course materials, with the costs included as part of their tuition.



The National Association of College Stores (NACS) has suggested that campus bookstores are a logical choice to lead inclusive-access programs because of their established relationships with school administrators, students, faculty and publishers. According to NACS, 23 percent of independent college stores had inclusive access programs in place for the 2017–18 academic year, while 32 percent said they were considering adopting an inclusive access program. For Barnes and Noble College, which manages over 750 college bookstores nationwide, the number of campuses using its inclusive access model, known as First Day™, doubled since last year to over 100 campuses.



The expansive growth of inclusive access coincides with a 2015 Department of Education regulation, which allows institutions to include the costs of books and supplies in their tuition. Now, instead of students purchasing textbooks on their own, the costs of course materials are automatically included in their tuition when they enroll. To do this, institutions provide access to course materials through their learning management system (LMS), provide an option for students to opt out, and must partner with publishers to ensure materials are discounted at below competitive market rates.


For faculty members, a key selling point of inclusive access is that students have all the course materials they need on the first day of class. Betsy Langness, a professor at Jefferson Community and Technical College’s Shelbyville campus in Kentucky, has used inclusive access in her classes and values its easy access for students.


“I teach both online and hybrid classes, which include digital content from the publisher,” she said. “Having the course charge included in the students’ tuition made a huge difference in my classes. By allowing students immediate access to the online content, we remove added barriers from the students’ learning process — which means they have a better chance of being successful.”


In a press release announcing an expanded partnership with Barnes & Noble Education to offer inclusive access, Nik Osborne, senior vice president, strategy & business operations for Pearson, said the benefits of early access to learning materials was clear.


“The evidence is overwhelming that student performance improves, and faculty can begin instruction immediately, when course materials are available on the first day of class,” Osborne said. “Inclusive access helps support these efforts by providing all students with day-one access to their required course materials at an affordable price point.”


Article reposted from Barnes & Noble College NEXT.

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