Access and Affordability: A Q&A with Author Dr. Christine Harrington

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As Executive Director of the Student Success Center at the New Jersey Council of Community Colleges and a professor with more than 15 years of experience, Cengage author Dr. Christine Harrington is passionate about providing students with the best academic experience possible. It’s this passion that fuels her commitment to connecting students with affordable, high-quality course materials. Acknowledging that students often forgo course materials due to cost, Dr. Harrington shares her excitement around Cengage Unlimited, which was created to address the decades-old problem of affordability and access in higher education.

As both a parent and an author, what do you see as the biggest challenges facing students today?

Although students today are very fortunate to have so much information available at the click of a button or through a voice command, they often struggle with being able to find and evaluate information that is needed for various tasks. In other words, identifying the most relevant or meaningful information or determining the credibility of information can be quite a challenge. It’s essential for students to have access to credible sources and to also learn information literacy skills that will serve them well personally and professionally.

As an instructor, have you had many students in your courses make the decision to forgo course materials due to cost? If so, what impact did that have on learning outcomes?

As a psychology and first-year seminar professor at a community college, I have seen many students opt to not buy the book for financial reasons or because they did not see the value in the textbook.

It’s essential that we make textbooks more accessible financially and for faculty to help students see the value of these resources.

The text is one of the primary resources for learning so when this happens, there is no doubt that learning and academic performance are negatively impacted. It’s essential that we make textbooks more accessible financially and for faculty to help students see the value of these resources. Many of the online supports that you find in digital tools can help students really engage and learn content via the text.

Looking back at the last ten years as an author, what changes have you seen in the higher education publishing industry, and what kind of impact have they had on students/learning?

The cost of textbooks continues to increase and this is very problematic. As a faculty member who selects textbooks, I am often facing the decision to choose between affordability and credibility. Because of the increased costs and concern about equity, many faculty are turning to open resource materials. While this shift stems from good intentions and there are, of course, many high quality open resource materials, curating these resources takes an enormous amount of faculty time which can reduce the time they can spend on other more important actions, such as mentoring students. On a positive note, there has been significant improvement in online tools to support student learning – online quizzes, for example. These tools can increase student learning and engagement.

What excites you most about Cengage Unlimited?

This innovative approach will enable more students to gain access to highly credible resources at an affordable price. When students have essential resources, such as the textbook, they’re more likely to be successful!

To learn more about Cengage Unlimited, visit