Over the past several years, publishers and educational technology companies have increased their focus on creating tools to help improve student outcomes in individual courses, overall rates of student retention, and graduation rates. At the same time, there has been a focus on lowering the overall cost of education. One component of that equation is minimizing the time-to-graduation, a goal which can be accomplished by increasing the level of student preparedness and/or ensuring successful completion in remedial or college-level courses; another is decreasing the overall cost of materials.

The tools and technologies that have emerged over the past few years have included both continuous and disruptive innovations. In the former category, we have seen improvements to the standard eTextbook model, particularly in the area of interactivity, and an increase in the quantity and quality of interactive resources provided on publishers’ companion websites. In the latter category, the innovations have been in the form of integrated learner experiences that attempt to anticipate the timing and types of learners’ resource needs and make those resources available to the learner at the appropriate time.

The results of a 2010 research project conducted by Cengage Learning indicated that a majority of instructors expected the next generation of teaching and learning tools to provide sound pedagogy out of the box, possess the ability to be customized in order to meet specific needs, work on a wide range of devices, and be compatible with their learning management systems. As part of the project, researchers tested a new concept with the instructors: an integrated course solution that possessed all of the attributes mentioned above, and also took the technology – and the level of student-focused interaction – to a new level. One key difference was that all of the student materials were housed in a central ”hub” location, including the readings, instead of the typical model in which the non-book resources are separate from the eBook and accessed independently, or accessed through the eBook itself. Another difference was that instructors could modify the content by adding, deleting, and re-ordering it. In recent follow-up research studies, the majority of students who have used this new personalized learning experience report that it enables them to stay more organized, better monitor their own performance, and gain a deeper understanding of course concepts, as compared to the standard eTextbooks and course resources that the same students had used in the past.

As publishers continue to move their titles from basic eTextbooks and online resources to highly integrated whole-course solutions, the array of choices in their catalogs – including eTextbook formats and digital resources – can be overwhelming. Our whitepaper, Beyond eTextbooks:The Advantages of Integrated Course Solutions explores this topic in detail and provides a list of the eight things to look for when evaluating integrated course solutions. Some of these elements include:

  1. An engaging, learner-centric approach that contributes to improved outcomes. Assessment and remediation features should have an integrated, clean, and modern interface that encourages learners to complete assignments, to utilize a self-paced format, and to obtain the right level of assistance – when and if needed
  2. Adherence to accessibility standards, including built-in audio capabilities, screen contrast and font adjustments, and other accommodations
  3. A fully customizable solution – one that enables instructors to add, delete, and re-order content in order to meet the unique need of their students.

To continue reading, download the whitepaper.

Have you used integrated course solutions in conjunction with your courses? We would love to hear from you. Please share your experiences using the comments section below.