What If We Started Over?

By Michael Moore | August 23, 2023

What If We Started Over?

Rashad Nelms, Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategy and Innovation at Indiana University Bloomington recently posted a question on LinkedIn that asked “Would you deliver higher education differently if you were starting an institution or company today? And if so, how would it differ”. This is an interesting question for many higher education stakeholders given the challenges higher education is currently facing. However, I want to shift this question/idea specifically to course materials. I want to repropose the question as “would you deliver course materials differently if you were starting an institution today”?

Find & Acquire

As the course materials and acquisition process shifts towards Inclusive Access, Equitable Access, and Open Educational Resources, I think this question looms large for course materials. By all accounts, course materials are still a very important part of higher education in the Unite States. However, the current and most prevalent course materials acquisition and delivery model is archaic and obsolete. I call this course materials model “find & acquire” while others call it “student choice”. This model requires students to figure out what they need, where it’s located, and if they have the resources to acquire it. This may require students to navigate multiple e-commerce platforms or physically go to a campus or off-campus location and it all takes time away from their other life responsibilities and obligations. Students are required to have their course materials but receive little help in course materials acquisition and delivery process. Why?

From Scratch

The process for course material acquisition and delivery is shifting. Among other things, the growth of Inclusive Access and Equitable Access are powering it. The shift away from “find & acquire” or “student choice” is being met with resistance from a variety of stakeholders. However, if most of us were to start an institution today, from scratch, including course materials in the cost of tuition or attendance would be a no brainer. We would do everything in our power to make sure our students, regardless of gender, race, age, and socioeconomic status, had everything they needed to be successful in our new institution. We would ensure that our institution was free of friction and barriers that are known causes of failure, stop-out, and drop out.

However, in the present “find & acquire” models of course materials acquisition and delivery, we ask students to stretch their resources – be it time or finances. Institutions who still embrace the “find & acquire” models are sending a message to students that the inequities and challenges of this model are the student’s responsibility to bear alone and that you only have the right to be successful in higher education if you have the socioeconomic background or resources to do so.

Wrap Up

Given what we know about the impact course materials can have on a student throughout their higher education journey, why would we not make sure that they had access to one of, if not, the most important educational/learning resource? I accept that some may feel the issues are more complex, but to me it is simply about students and putting their course materials in their hands and on their devices. Course materials intervention models like Inclusive and Equitable Access do not change faculty pedagogy or academic freedom. They do not change how administrators go about their day-to-day work. These course materials interventions are about students and providing them the necessary resources to be successful from day one.

As always, thanks for checking in and I’ll see you next time.