Indiana University Writes the Book on Successful eTexts Programs

Free e-book “eTexts 101: A Practical Guide” shares lessons learned, processes with higher education community

April 25, 2018

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Since 2011, Indiana University’s pioneering eText program has reduced the cost of required course materials by more than $16 million in real cost avoidance for IU students, making college more affordable for tens of thousands of Hoosiers across the state.

In an effort to share insights and lessons from this successful eText model with the higher education community, IU today released a free e-book, “eTexts 101: A Practical Guide,” chronicling lessons learned and best practices on the school’s eTexts journey. It is available at etexts101.iu.edu.

IU’s eTexts program began in fall 2009 as a subsidized pilot program to assess the usability and economics for students and faculty. It expanded to all IU campuses in spring 2012. By 2017, more than 61,000 students—or 53.4% of IU’s approximately 115,000 students on all eight campuses—used at least one eText. IU eTexts are powered by the Unizin Engage e-reading platform, which integrates with IU’s Canvas learning management system to provide secure access to course materials via any device.

The rapid growth of the program continues to achieve its initial four objectives:
• Drive down costs of digital materials for students
• Give faculty access to high-quality materials of choice
• Develop new tools for teaching and learning
• Favorably shape the economic terms of how students acquire digital course materials

“Students, parents, faculty, economists, and even publishers all knew that the spiraling price of textbooks had become a ridiculous part of the cost of higher education,” said Brad Wheeler, IU vice president for IT and CIO, professor in the Kelley School of Business, and architect of the IU eTexts program.

“The path to digital was a huge opportunity to intervene in the structural flaws of the industry between content creators (authors and publishers) and content consumers (students and faculty),” he said. “It is remarkable when innovation in an industry can dramatically reduce the price to buyers while also yielding greater revenues to authors, and that is exactly what IU’s eText model does. This win-win approach—now labeled ‘inclusive access’ by the industry—is rapidly accelerating as a rational model to structurally reduce the cost of textbooks and other course materials.”

The e-book features a collection of short chapters from authors with first-hand knowledge of IU’s eText program and rolling out digital course materials initiatives. They include IU eText leaders; publishers who have participated in the program; the IU Press; and colleagues from Ohio State University, University of Minnesota, the University of Iowa, and Oregon State University who are working to address the textbook issue on their campuses.

“We believe the IU eTexts program can and should serve as a model for how universities and colleges can work with publishers and with their faculty to provide textbooks and other course materials in a way that will enhance the student’s learning experience and reduce costs,” writes editor David W. Lewis in the “eTexts 101” introduction. Lewis is former IU assistant vice president for digital scholarly communication and dean of the IUPUI University Library.

For Stacy Morrone, IU associate vice president of learning technologies and one of the e-book’s contributors, “eTexts 101” is a natural extension of one of the project’s core tenets: collaboration.

“IU has learned so much in our rollout and refinement of the eTexts program across all campuses and with uses in hundreds of disciplines including foreign languages, sciences, and business,” said Morrone. “There are many details to get right in implementing this with the faculty, students, and administrative colleagues. The IU faculty and students have been remarkable in their support to implement and refine this model and the software for reading and annotating course materials.

“As eTexts at IU continued to accelerate with organic success, we began fielding questions from our higher education colleagues who were considering a similar solution to their schools’ textbook conundrum. With this e-book, we can easily and broadly share our lessons learned and processes with anyone who’s interested, and we are happy to do so,” Morrone said.

“This e-book is a valuable primer for institutions wishing to take an eText project and student savings to scale,” said Steven Cramer, vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “The authors hone in on the key issues and processes vital to successful implementation of eText adoption. ‘eText 101’ also tells a story of a highly successful institutional transformation project where a variety of stakeholders came together for the betterment of students and the IU teaching and learning mission.”

“With all that Unizin Engage has to offer, we are excited to be part of scaling the IU eText model to the consortium and beyond to higher ed in general,” said Rob Lowden, executive director at Unizin. “The ‘eText 101’ model and Unizin Engage platform and services combine to optimize the path toward affordable access to course materials.”

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