An initiative to offer college textbooks in digital formats for Indiana University courses has saved students significant money and gained wider use and support as professors and students discover the benefits of IU eTexts.
University Information Technology Services started IU eTexts 12 years ago by working directly with publishers to offer licensed, digital access to their titles at discounted prices. These efforts focused on reducing barriers to academic success, such as the high costs of purchasing physical textbooks each semester and delays in books being ready for students by the time classes started.
The initiative has saved students more than $100 million off retail prices, and the flexibility of IU eTexts has aided student engagement, according to Mark Goodner and Noma Maier, IU eTexts consultants. The digital textbooks can be viewed on multiple devices: laptops, smartphones, and tablets with internet access.
58.5% of the student body — more than 52,800 students in 3,689 classes taught by 1,807 faculty across nine campuses — used at least one IU eTexts title
“Reaching $100 million in savings is a wonderful demonstration of how faculty across IU have come together to help address one of the most significant barriers to student success: the cost of attendance,” said Jay Gladden, UITS associate vice president for learning technologies. “I am extremely grateful to everyone who has contributed to help achieve these savings.”
Faculty drive the course material decisions, and some recent data show how common IU eTexts are becoming for IU courses.
In the fall 2022 term, 58.5% of the student body — more than 52,800 students in 3,689 classes taught by 1,807 faculty across nine campuses — used at least one IU eTexts title, Goodner said. That produced a total savings of $8.9 million from retail prices in that term and increased the students’ likelihood of academic success, he added.
Multiple features of IU eTexts aid engagement and accessibility, the eTexts consultants said. Professors and students can highlight sections of the text and add inline notes, which can provide context, include new information or link to other sources. Additionally, eTexts are available in Canvas on the first day of classes, and students keep the digital textbooks for their entire time at IU.
Reaching $100 million in savings is a wonderful demonstration of how faculty across IU have come together.
The e-reader has a text-to-speech function that lets students listen to the text, and fonts can be changed to make the text easier to read. The e-reader also can be used offline, without Wi-Fi.
“Initially, the IU eTexts initiative was about savings costs for students, but now more than before it’s also about engagement and student protection,” Maier said.
Students are billed for IU eTexts on their bursar accounts, which allows them to apply financial aid to the costs rather than paying out of pocket for texts from an outside vendor. IU eTexts also has a return policy that lasts until a few weeks into a semester. Outside vendors sometimes refuse refunds as soon as texts are opened, Maier said.
Kathy Johnson, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at IUPUI and a professor of psychology, volunteered to teach during spring 2021 to understand the challenges that faculty and students were experiencing with hybrid instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. She used IU eTexts for her lifespan development course.
“I really liked the flexibility,” Johnson said. “I loved knowing that when my students were in class, and I was asking them to talk with each other about a concept or issue, they could refer to their eTexts and I didn’t have to worry about whether someone didn’t have their book in their backpack.”
With the next IU eTexts ordering cycle opening Feb. 2, Goodner and Maier said faculty and staff can learn more about the option at their own pace. “IU eTexts: A Faculty and Staff Introduction” is a self-enrolling Canvas resource and reference site that explains everything about the initiative. Also, webinars on Feb. 7 and 15 can help faculty and staff get started with IU eTexts.
Kirk Johannesen is a communications consultant in the Office of the Vice President for Communications and Marketing.