The Ohio Digital Bookshelf, webinar summary

The Ohio Digital Bookshelf, Where will the 2nd Year Take Us?  A Webinar from the University System of Ohio TeachU, Presented by Stephen R. Acker, Research Director, The Ohio Digital Bookshelf

The slides for the webinar are available on slideshare and the webinar archive.

The following is a summary of my interpretation of the webinar.  My best efforts were made to ensure accuracy.

Affordability, engagement and preparedness are the 3 big factors that influence student success in college.  For many of higher education faculty, admistrators, and policy creators years ago, these were mutually reinforcing- “poverty” as a teaching associate led to more campus-based activity and greater preparedness through grading, lecturing, and the like. Now, higher costs for education and lack of related income-generating opportunities for students, drives students off campus and takes time they would better be spending on study. We need to concentrate on affordability if we’re to bring campus engagement and preparedness back into reasons for successrather than reasons for failure for today’s student, who lives in a much different world.

Cost of higher education and textbooks continues to go up.  If we can’t stop this escalating trend, we will price students out of higher education.

The primary objective of the Ohio Digital Bookshelf is to improve the return on investment in education- by freezing the rate of textbook price increases and improving the learning outcomes of students who use them.


•  Increase student learning

•  Reduce cost increases of 8 – 13% per year

•  Generate improved ROI

•  Escape the tragedy of the commons (individual actors pursuing self interests to the extent that the “commons” fails)

Strategy #1 – The Buyer’s Co-op – conducted this pilot project in introduction to psychology courses across the state.  Faculty who agreed to participate received a reduction of the textbook price of up to 70% off of the new print price for a digital version of the textbook. Participation simply meant: (1) tell us your textbook choice, (2) estimated annual enrolmment, and (3) a willingness to put a link on the course syllabus that led to a digital option, not a required digital purchase. We held a summer Digital Pioneers workshop to help faculty leverage digital resources in their teaching. Cengage, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, Pearson, John Wiley and Sons, ,and Bedford, Freeman & Worth, and presented their digital solutions and shared teaching strategies. The workshop was very well-received and will be repeated in Summer 2011.

Strategy #2Build ODP Community – Using NING This community can be joined at this website: The community has grown from 17 to 224 members in less than one year and serves as a virtual space for sharing thoughts and resources associated with digital learning.

Strategy #3 – Promote Open Educational Resources –  Steve showed a variety of slides showing new and used textbook prices on Ohio campuses.  Both were expensive, thus the promotion of OERs.  The University System of Ohio has applied for grants from the Next Generation Learning Challege – Ohio’s Scaffold to the Stars with partners from Edison Community College, Lakeland, Lorain County Community College, and Sinclair Community College, and Southern State Community College. The Dept. of Labor TAACCCT program which is offering grants of up to 20-million dollars for employment programs that use OER further validate this approach.  Ohio has begun an agreement with Flat World Knowledge to evaluate an OER model.

Strategy #4 – Student Research – ODB is doing research on different types of educational resources – traditional books, Flat World Knowledge content, and open web sources.  The traditional publisher scored higher on the learning tools portion (of particular importance to faculty) of the survey, although the engagement, thoroughness, clarity and accuracy were comparable (in this descriptive, not generalizable) study.

Strategy #5 – Flat World Knowledge Mixed Model – offer 52 textbooks now.  The pilot program will provide 1,000 Ohio students with free digital freeing exchange for research focused on improved learning outcomes.

Strategy #6 – Comparative Pricing – Some Ohio schools are using software programs to do price comparisons for textbooks.  BGSU bookstore improved its revenue as a result of this process because the VERBA software helped students choose between price and service/support.

Strategy #7 – Blanket licensing – approach taken by California State University system in its fall pilot.  Sell through went from 6.4% to 76% for licensed content.  But, some push back in CA because of only one textbook format choice, Ohio has not chosen this approach due to the push back, but will consider pilots/full programs if this is the will of our system.

Strategy #8 – Skin in the game – Find different ways to increase student success in math, reading, etc. Are partnering with McGraw-Hill to provide an 8 week summer boot-camp course to get students up-to-speed in math, reading, other skills, without a series of developmental math courses (which earn no college credit, but do require tuition payments).  Using McGraw-Hill’s Aleks program.  If successful, students will be able to enroll in college credit courses in their first quarter, rather than taking developmental courses at additional cost with no credit. If our return on investment bears out this approach, we’ll fully support its implementation across Ohio campuses.

Strategy #9 – Stair-step pricing – Shared OSU data from the sale of new vs. used books in an Intro to Psych course.  Affordability is at the top of things for students.  Found the break even point at 30.  If the publisher had sold 30 more digital textbooks (at our proposed reduced price), the publisher breaks even. Every additional sale is revenue for the publisher rather than absorbed in the used book market.

Strategy #10 – State Procurement – Texas is doing this, they are buying a textbook for English Composition and Literature, etc. to serve the state schools.  Not the same as creative commons because the state would hold the license and restrict certain rights.  It will represent the pros and cons of a large state purchase made widely available.

Strategy #11 – Leverage Accessibility – evaluate and promote born digital content for accessibility.  Encourage the inclusion of accessible formats at the beginning of the cycle (Born digital) and not the end. Steve promoted the Accessible Digital Rights Management one day conference on May 2nd (Free) for those interested in advancing this agenda.

Strategy #12 – Expand the library role – OhioLINK is well postioned to serve as a modular digital bookshelf and information curator. The FindingDulcinea organization is a commercial exemplar of this service . We would leverage the OhioLINK community to share their assessments of instructional resources and help build recommended “course packs” of both commercial and OER content for faculty adoption. We also would like to encourage libraries to work with us and publishers on purchasing/licensing digital materials per use, rather than buying up front without knowledge of user demand (patron acquistion model).  Libraries could also be an early advocate of time-senstiive, purchase simultaneous licenses for student textbooks. The current model is buy 2 print copies and hold on reserve for two hour use windows. Better to buy digital access licenses (2 simultaneous users) that can expand (at additional cost) for high demand time periods during the academic term (midterm, end of term).

Strategy #13 – Policy symposium – asking members of publishers, bookstores, libraries, faculty, the state, and students to come to a symposium and help them write the next version of their plan.  Symposium is to be held on April 26, 2011on the Columbus State Community College campus in Columbus. We’re seeking 120 engaged participants to help us inform policy and pilots over the next year. More information on the ODB Ning.