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Digital Learning Technologies and Access Codes in Higher Ed are Benefiting Students

We thank the StudentPIRGs for their detailed research into digital access codes. Their data from ten colleges and universities provides valuable insight into institutions’ use of these codes to access online learning platforms.

As their report reveals, today’s digital learning products come in many formats and at many price points. Almost without exception, digital access formats are substantially less expensive than the cost of a print textbook, and they provide students with far more content and are associated with better learning outcomes than simple textbook content alone. Digital products may contain homework engines and assessments as well as practice environments that give students immediate feedback and in some products access to a wide range of tips and help. Depending on the course, digital materials may also include collaborative learning spaces, writing tools, games and 3D simulations.

Many professors that choose digital do so because they find it improves students’ performance. A recent study from the National Association of College Stores (NACS) found that about half of the faculty who assigned a digital component believe it is more effective in creating positive learning outcomes. Students agree. A recent survey from Vital Source found that 87% of students felt they would get better grades with interactive materials, rather than traditional textbooks.

One example of publishers addressing affordability is taking place at Indiana University (IU). The university directly partners with more than 20 publishers to make the University’s eText initiative a cost-effective alternative that aids student success and provides faculty with a powerful instructional tool. The eText initiative enables “IU students to access their required eTexts before the first day of class—with a cumulative savings of more than $14.5 million off of retail prices since summer 2011.”

Generally, digital discount programs allow students to purchase materials when paying for tuition and fees with scholarship, federal loan or grant money. Typically, students are not charged for the materials until after the end of drop-add period. With these programs, we achieve StudentPIRGs ideal that “once a student has gained entry to the class – such as paying tuition – all that should stand between them and a top grade is hard work.”


View Frequently Asked Questions about Digital Learning Systems, Access Codes and eTextbooks