We recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Cheryl Costantini, Cengage Learning’s new Vice President of Content Strategy. Cheryl has been with Cengage Learning for nearly nineteen years and she’s excited about the opportunities we have to make a real difference in the lives of students.

In Cheryl’s new role, she’s leading a team that is working across business lines to create different product and business models, using our content in unique and creative ways. Enjoy our Q&A and see what she says is in store for the future of content!

Q: What is the biggest change underway in higher education when it comes to content?         

A: Two key factors impacting higher education today are cost and quality. Of course, these are not new challenges, yet I think our growing digital solutions gives us more options to address these challenges.  As a result, we are focused on alternative ways to help students and instructors access the best content at the lowest price point. With new digital learning solutions, we can deliver content in ways that are more accessible, more engaging and just fit better with how students like to learn – and in most cases, for less money.

We’re very focused on the student experience and making sure that students are central to our product development process. As a result, we are unveiling entirely new kinds of products. For example, MindTap Math Foundations — which was developed with input from more than 1,000 students — incorporates gaming features, mobile access and short 15-minute learning bursts without a traditional textbook for students in developmental math courses. These solutions are engaging students in the content and as a result helping students succeed.

Q: We hear a lot about “open content.” What is the role of the traditional content provider when it comes to open content?

A: I think every education company is evaluating its approach to OER, and we will all move forward in slightly different ways. At the end of the day, we all share the same goal: we want students to learn and succeed. If we keep true to that mission, in however we proceed with respect to OER, students will benefit in the end. At Cengage, we recognize that OER can work with proprietary content and be included on our platform.  Yet we believe the open content needs to be held to the same high standards as the proprietary content to ensure the student is provided with the learning experience they expect and deserve. We already have solutions that allow OER materials to be integrated directly into our products. Moving forward we’re focused on what we can do to help those who choose to embrace OER to ensure it is most effective.

Although cost and quality are challenges for Higher Education institutions, opportunity lies in making the best use of the content available. There is a vast amount of OER content that could be used, however, discoverability and durability is not easy. Fortunately, we know how to curate, permission, and ensure content quality and longevity. We do this with proprietary content and can apply this expertise to OER content, while also including the content in a digital platform that enables personalization, LMS integration, and real-time insight into student engagement and grades.  At Cengage, we can help institutions curate the best of the OER content to create a learning and teaching experience that students and instructors can rely on.

Q: Do you see video as an important medium for education in the future?

A: Absolutely! Video is part of our everyday lives – and whether through video chatting, sending video texts, or videos in social media, video is a quick, easy and engaging way to convey a message. I’ve always been a strong proponent of integrating tools in education that people are accustomed to using in their everyday lives. Just last night, I watched a video for a recipe on my Facebook feed, and it was more impactful for me than a written recipe ever could be. In two minutes, I watched the steps involved and saw the finished product.

Whether for in-class use, online courses, or even to study independently, video can be a great alternative format to deliver a message that is more engaging. Also with constantly evolving technology, video has become even easier to use – from production (hit record on a cell phone!), to sharing (simply upload and send a link to YouTube), and even viewing. Video also lends currency and authenticity to our teaching. For example, an instructor can easily share news clips on a subject to illustrate the relevant application of a topic – think of the election cycle and the videos that can illustrate various points for American Government or Public Speaking courses. Students can also record videos and submit them as an alternative homework format where they can demonstrate their understanding of subject matter, such as mastery of a foreign language, for example.

I expect we will continue to see video used in the classroom and, as such, we’ll continue to develop content and find ways to integrate other video assets into learning materials.

Is the textbook going away?

A: The “textbook” continues to evolve and we’re seeing more and more digital solutions in place of traditional textbooks. Will a print textbook ever go away entirely? Probably not anytime soon. Despite the transition to digital and the incredibly powerful solutions available today, the reality is that in some disciplines, students and instructors still prefer a physical book. And as long as there are instructors and students who want to use print textbooks, we will continue to make them. At the end of the day, our goal is to deliver content in a way that will help students learn.

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