Page 16 - Campus Technology, July 2017
P. 16

But Unizin has also taken over the work handled in the early days by Indiana U and others of negotiating deals with publishers for content.
In the “not-too-distant-future,” Wheeler said, Unizin will open up and take on “subscribers,” institutions that just want the services but aren’t interested in the hard work of service development or governance. “When you become a member of Unizin, you get all of those contracts. You get the e-reader annotation software, great usability and accessibility,” he declared. “That makes it a lot simpler for an institution to opt in and start making an e-text offer today than when we did it and we had to go negotiate with the publishers one by one.”
As Indiana U’s own agreements with publishers expire, it’s adopting the deals cut by Unizin. That encompasses both open educational resources and commercial content, which, in spite of his tough talk, Wheeler respects. “There’s lot to like,” he insisted. “The commercial model yields good content. They keep it up-to-date. And faculty like teaching from the ancillary materials.”
But that respect is couched in an expectation that the new world of curriculum is ruled by schools. “Faculty want the choice to pick the best stuff for their classes and then to acquire it at the best possible prices. When students and faculty interact with that content and generate data, we don’t want to be buying our data back. We want to own
[the data] so that our researchers can draw inference from it.”
Of course, participants must be ever vigilant to prevent backsliding. The current ruse being promoted by publishers is the “adaptive model, with robo-tutors and everything else,” according to Wheeler. “They’re trying to offer all kinds of empirical evidence to bolster their claims that their robo-tutor achieves a better result than something else,” with the goal of regaining “monopolistic pricing power.” He isn’t buying into the pitch. “It’s a variant of the same problem we were trying to solve in the first place.”
“We’re all going digital very, very quickly,” Wheeler insisted. “Absent institutions using their role and bargaining power and their billing mechanisms, we leave students exposed to an even less perfect market than what we had previously.”
Recalling the early years of Day One Access, Wheeler remembers one “really contentious” negotiation. “The publisher asserted to me that they would allow [printing from the digital text], but only one page at a time. You couldn’t print a chapter. I talked them down from that ledge, but that tells you how wrapped around the axle they were back in that time. We’re just past all of that silliness now.”
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for Campus Technology.
While many institutions are experimenting with negotiation to bring down product pricing from traditional publishers for “Day One Access,” others are trying out alternative ways to outfit students from the first day of class. An open educational resources pilot undertaken at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Ohio and other institutions set out to learn how OER materials would stack up against the traditional curriculum in use in those same courses. Working with Barnes & Nobel Education (BNED), which runs the college system’s bookstore, six Tri-C instructors at six campuses and 275 students participated.
As a final report circulated internally summarized, the two big barriers to adopting OER are “finding the ancillary resources to supplement textbooks” and “concern about the quality of the content.” BNED has developed courseware for 10 general education courses that includes e-texts, videos, assignments, self-checks and quizzes, eliminating the hassle of faculty having to do the same. All six instructors in the pilot graded courseware quality on a par with “content from the major publishers”; 91 percent of students agreed. Now the college plans to expand the program.
A case study that examines the use of the BNED courseware platform at Tri-C, Penn State University and West Liberty University in West Virginia is available for registration on the BNED website here.

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