Fall 2017 marks three years since the etext initiative rolled out at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. We’ve experienced many successes: we saved our students money, increased communication and partnerships across the institution, and our students are more satisfied with their course materials than ever before. Now that we’ve found our groove, we’re ready to expand across more student populations—even beyond ourselves.

You may be asking, “Haven’t you expanded already?” Yes, we expanded across Liberal Arts in 2014. In 2015, we expanded the etext initiative into another division at the College. In 2016, etext course offerings encompassed over 60% of the College’s catalog. In 2017, we focused on using digital resources in order to better meet and serve students, striving to make master shells in Blackboard 9.1 more ADA compliant and equipped with alternative assignments. We have done—and learned—a lot.

We’re not done yet, though. The College plans to use etexts as a way to benefit other student populations. Because of the savings and instant delivery of digital materials, we plan to look into the positive impacts etexts can have on high school students—including Early College (EC) and Career and College Promise Programs (CCPP). It’s our hope that we can use etexts in order to save school systems money and simplify their annual budgeting processes. Such a model could also be applied to Middle College students, Continuing Education, Workforce Development—especially if companies are paying for all costs—and veterans. Once we have our new model in place, we plan to share it with others. While we’ve been pioneers in these efforts, we want other institutions, faculty, staff and students across the country to benefit. We started with our College and our students, but we want to help you and yours as well.

I’d like to give you some advice. First, find a faculty lead. That person is pivotal in getting other faculty members involved.

Second, establish a diverse steering committee compiled of people from all areas of the institution. This is the best way to keep lines of communication open and make sure you’re considering every perspective.

Third, don’t rush it. You need time to plan, pilot, analyze results and determine what will work best. The way we did it may not work for you—all institutions are different after all.

Fourth and finally, keep your students as the focus. Survey your students, give them options to choose from at first then, listen, adapt if needed and compromise. If you have a Student Government Association (SGA), consider their presence in the decision-making process.

Getting here today hasn’t been easy. It’s taken a lot of time, work, patience, teamwork and trust—but it can be done. It’s worth it, and your students will thank you, I promise. The best part? If you need me, I’m only an email away.