CourseSmart was likened to a “short-sighted folly” in an article I read the other day, which left us wondering if the problem we are trying to solve in U.S. Higher Education is really understood by all.
There are many issues in Higher Education today. Ensuring what occurs in the classroom has a positive impact upon students is clearly a top priority, and the publishers that support CourseSmart produce many highly engaging learning products that make faculty teaching more effective and student learning more engaging. These products are highly interactive and provide immediate feedback to the student. Examples of these products are the MyLab series from Pearson, the Wiley+ series from John Wiley, Cengage Course and McGraw-Hill Connect. All these products can be purchased at CourseSmart and accessed online through our Student Bookshelf.
There are other areas in Higher Education that need work as well. Unfortunately, students often can’t find the right materials from a reliable retail source. Many times, these materials are unaffordable for some students. According to Student Monitor, for example, as much as 15% of all students do not buy the course materials required for class, with the most cited reason being cost.
CourseSmart’s mission is to increase access to education by connecting content creators with content users in the digital world. In order to fulfill our mission, we want to impact every student’s life—not just the lives of a few. We want to make sure that their course materials are affordable, which is why our eTextbooks are often 60% less expensive than print textbooks. In addition, CourseSmart carries a catalog of more than 20,000 items, both eTextbooks and the highly innovative products from our publishers that were mentioned above, which can be accessed on any device a student chooses to use. A student can purchase their Algebra textbook from CourseSmart and also secure access to the MyMathLab product that accompanies the textbook all in one discounted purchase and from one digital bookshelf with one log-in, no matter what device they are using: A truly “digital back pack.”
Finally, many students are not able to use print products because of print-related disabilities such as no or low sight or other disabilities that limit access when materials are in print. CourseSmart eTextbooks are WCAG 2.0 A conformant, and we are approaching AA status. This means that students with disabilities can use our content with their normal assistive technologies, significantly increasing their ability to take advantage of the cost savings, convenience and digital benefits of our extensive library of accessible course materials. We have increased access to education for these students.
As you may have noticed, I have not said that we are an eTextbook publisher. Many people confuse us with that. What we really are is a single point of review, purchase and access for tens of thousands of the best digital Higher Education course materials in the world. We have saved students more than $40 million in materials costs since our inception in 2007. We have helped countless students in distance learning programs who might not have had ready access to a place to buy their materials. We have helped improve learning outcomes by making sure that our inventory includes not just eTextbooks but also the best course materials and interactive learning products produced by our publishers. We have helped disabled students gain access to materials that were, at best, difficult to access in the past.
We do not believe that the mission we have of increasing access to education for students through greater choice, more affordability and greater access is folly. I think it’s safe to say that the 1.3 million faculty members, hundreds of thousands of students and institutional partners that use our inventory and platform don’t believe so either.