For a generation of students brought up with unlimited choices, it’s expected that personalized preferences would extend to how they want to learn. Yet, the widespread adoption of those preferences into the classroom has been slower than expected. Research from the Educause Center for Applied Research ten years ago predicted that students’ use of technology would be more “evolutionary than revolutionary,” and a decade later, that seems to be the case. Now, it’s less about traditional versus technology — and all about creating greater choice.
Although educators and schools have been able to provide today’s students with a variety learning platforms, the college class built around the textbook has been difficult to replace as James Mulrooney, Associate Professor and Chair for the Department of Biomolecular Sciences at Central Connecticut State University, explains. “The book is an essential component for the course. If students want to do well, the book is absolutely required, and the various formats and cost-saving options increase the likelihood that the majority of students will have the book for the course,” he says, adding, “The availability of lower-cost options such as digital or book rentals, opens the door for me to have greater flexibility to choose the best possible text for my course.”
Ed tech has helped develop powerful new additions to the learning landscape and, having pioneered textbook rentals, used books, buy back and price matching programs, Barnes & Noble College has also invested in new learning technologies and platforms. Powered by its research on how Generation Z prefers to learn, the company discovered more about student preferences for combining traditional learning with the latest learning technologies. “We found that while they’re very independent and technologically savvy, today’s students value face-to-face interaction and collaboration,” explains Lisa Malat, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Barnes & Noble College. “Learning for them is one continuous, multifaceted, completely integrated experience — connecting their social, academic and professional interests.”
Those kinds of discoveries have led to partnerships with content providers such as XanEdu to develop a fully interactive open educational resource OER Courseware. In addition to lauding the high-value content the platform provided for her students, Donya Waugh, who adopted OER Courseware for her students at Cuyahoga Community College, appreciated the way she could adapt the OER Courseware to her individual teaching style. “I liked the flexibility of being able to move chapters around, re-ordering the content to the way I like to teach the course. It gave my students resources for every chapter of the course book — quizzes and videos along with content that I could add myself,” she says.
The Company has also developed additional programs and options to increase affordability and access for students, including an inclusive access model, First Daytm. The First Day program includes course materials in the cost of tuition, which are delivered through a school’s learning management system (LMS), ensuring students are prepared for the first day of class. Students don’t have to enter an access code — or wait to get their materials — and creates an average savings of 40 percent compared to the same content outside of the model.
Research indicates students respond positively to these learning innovations, but it’s not only students who value these new ways of learning. According to a recent SurveyMonkey survey of parents of students in grades K-12, more than 75 percent indicated that educational technology had a positive influence on their children’s learning. The biggest benefits parents stated: it’s engaging and interactive, two characteristics the current generation of students also value as extremely important.
As higher education transforms, an innovative ecosystem of digital tools and resources will continue to evolve that will provide affordable solutions for teaching and learning that offer students the right support, at the right time, to achieve greater success.