The ISU Book Store has several textbook affordability initiatives, including used, rented and loose-leaf (unbound) textbooks. Instructors also can help lower course costs with the bookstore's immediate access program. The digital content option has saved students nearly $3 million since 2014.
Immediate access is just that. Students have instant access to the online course materials via the Canvas learning management system on the first day of class. If the digital content is available, instructors may choose to provide some or all of their required materials -- for example, ebooks and lab notebooks -- through immediate access.
"Based on their prices, students may or may not buy textbooks and that could affect their success in the class," said Heather Dean, bookstore assistant director. "With immediate access, the students don't have to physically come to the store to buy anything or mess with an access code. They just log into Canvas, and it's there. The faculty don't have to worry about students not being prepared."
Growth in participation, savings
Four courses used immediate access materials when the program debuted in fall 2014. On average, the 2,271 students saved more than 50 percent (roughly $41,500) off the printed materials cost. Participation exploded this fall, with 34 course items delivered via immediate access. Immediate access materials saved nearly 17,000 students more than $1.2 million.
The savings this fall on individual course materials ranged from 4 percent to nearly 80 percent, including 16 items less than half the cost of the printed version. The biggest money savers:
- 79 percent ($45 immediate access, $212 ebook), "Shigley's Mechanical Engineering Design," Mechanical Engineering 325
- 76 percent ($62 immediate access, $259 loose-leaf), "Marketing," Marketing 340
- 76 percent ($45 immediate access, $186 ebook), "Connect Core Concepts in Health," Human Sciences 110
Students are billed for the materials when they enroll in the course. The charges are refunded if they opt out or drop the course. Dean said loose-leaf companion versions of the required online content are available for an additional (reduced) cost to accommodate users who prefer printed learning materials.
"When it comes to course materials, it's very much a personal choice -- everyone has a different learning style and a different budget," Dean said. "This is an opportunity to get everyone on the same playing field so they can be successful in their course, no matter what their budget or learning style is."
'A win for students'
Immediate access also provides measurable data for instructors. They can see what materials are the most -- or least -- engaging for their students.
"There are analytics and tools faculty can use to keep tabs on their students and ensure success," Dean said.
Three major publishers and a few classroom technology sources offer immediate access materials, with more in the works to join the program. Dean encourages faculty to submit additional publisher and materials requests.
"This really is the wave of the future. This is where education is going. Immediate access brings down the price of course materials and makes sure students are prepared on day one of class -- they're succeeding, they're getting better grades, they're learning and you're retaining them in class," Dean said. "Everyone involved -- the faculty, bookstore and publishers -- is working to put money back into the pockets of students. This is a win for the students."