Kimberly Russell is vice president of research at Cengage
Research is central to every decision we make at Cengage. Research tells us the challenges, pain points, goals and desires of educators, students and administrators. It tells us what is on the horizon for higher education. Research tells us what learning materials are working well and which ones are not. Research tells us what we should design and build that will solve the needs of today’s educators and learners. And it told us that educators’ and students’ needs were not being met by the solutions on the market. So we created one: Cengage Infuse, the first-of-its-kind learning solution to leverage the exceptional, quality course content students and faculty need and embed it right in the Learning Management System (LMS) they already use.
There’s nothing more invigorating to me, as a product researcher, than identifying educators’ and learners’ pain points and challenges. I am passionate about education and the knowledge it unlocks for people. When something gets in the way, or friction slows down the learning process, I get to work.
Understanding the challenges
The work began in Fall 2019. We had just finished a very large-scale market research project where we surveyed, interviewed and observed over 4,000 instructors. Stated simply, this research identifies and tracks trends in higher education, the learning materials faculty use, how they use and assign those materials, their major pain points, institutional pressures and so much more.
As an educational technology company, it is essential we understand how learning materials are adopted, used and what value they do, or do not, deliver. We uncovered a lot, but a few things came screaming out of the research, which led to Cengage Infuse.
- LMS usage had grown significantly, and faculty were doing much more in their LMS than ever before.
- Due to this LMS usage growth, they were looking for materials that could be embedded directly into their LMS that didn’t require linking out to assignments. Faculty wanted everything in one place for themselves and for their students.
- With even more demands on faculty time, there was less capacity and interest to learn new platforms and tools.
- Faculty still placed extreme value on quality, vetted, curated, accessible narrative and assessment content that they could build from and do the things they loved the most―connecting with students and helping them achieve their goals!
- Faculty were using and valuing Cengage content―the textbooks, the test banks and the ancillaries―but they were having to pull various elements of the content into their LMS, which was a time-consuming task.
Uncovering a new teaching solution
After uncovering these themes in our initial research, we knew we needed to dig deeper. We needed to understand how faculty were creating, sourcing and ultimately building out the materials for their course so we could truly determine if there was a way that we could support faculty with a new teaching solution. And, spoiler alert, we identified that we could support faculty and students if we reimagined a new product model. The new product model was Cengage Infuse. Once we knew there was real value with the concept of Cengage Infuse―which we assessed by researching the concept with hundreds of faculty―we got to work designing this teaching solution.
Cengage Infuse answers the call
Every single decision about Cengage Infuse was made in collaboration with educators and students. We created content, we designed, we tested, we iterated and we tested again. At every stage of the creation process, we reviewed and tested the product with students and faculty. Throughout this entire research and development process, we engaged nearly 1,000 instructors and hundreds of students from over 500 Institutions and 40 disciplines. Educators and learners were at the heart of every decision we made. From content to assessment types, to design, to resources, we did everything in partnership with educators and learners.
Much more than an eTextbook
One important area that continually came up with faculty was the importance of quality assessment types. Educators repeatedly told us that they wanted to break up the reading with assessments so the cognitive load was manageable for the students. After they read a few pages, they could assess their knowledge at that point, instead of waiting until they read a complete chapter. Students found this very helpful as well. So, we created concept check quizzes that appear throughout the chapter and students and faculty have really valued those checks, as well as a more comprehensive end-of-chapter quiz.
Related to the assessments, faculty shared with us that they wanted students to get immediate feedback on the concept checks and end-of-chapter quizzes. Knowing you got something right or wrong wasn’t enough. They wanted feedback as to why the answer was correct or incorrect so they could focus on areas they needed to study.
One other feature of Cengage Infuse that was a direct ask of educators was the ability to customize all the concept checks, end-of-chapter quizzes and feedback. Faculty told us they wanted to edit wording, remove questions, localize content, adjust language, etc.―so we enabled that functionality. Content can be used as is or customized to meet specific needs. These are just a few of the key features and functionality we made in partnership with educators and students. We made many changes along the way to ensure that the final teaching solution was truly meeting the needs of educators and students.
At Cengage, we take the time needed to develop quality learning materials that solve real problems, and we do it in partnership with educators and learners. This is what we did with Cengage Infuse and I am thrilled to say it continues to grow. Cengage Infuse is now available for 98 titles in 24 courses―from Introductory Business to Psychology―across 5 learning management systems.
A new teaching solution that instructors and students love
As I said at the beginning of this post, I find it very invigorating to understand customer pain points and challenges so that I can do the work, with the team, to solve them. I feel we did that with Cengage Infuse. As one Instructor stated, upon seeing the final Cengage Infuse product, “Well, the first thing I thought of when I looked at this was, ah it feels familiar. It looks like my Canvas navigation tool, so I felt immediately at home.”
Nothing is better than feeling at home, so I believe we achieved what we aimed for. Educators really appreciate that Cengage Infuse is embedded in their LMS because they are so familiar with that workflow. But, they also love that they can set up the materials in under 15 minutes. They are loving the time-saving tools and ease of set-up. According to one American Government instructor, “I like how straightforward it is. No bells and whistles; just impactful and useful assessment and review.”
Interested in experiencing Cengage Infuse with your LMS? Check out our videos and demos.