Bye Bye, Bound Books? Part I

By RedShelf
We sat down with RedShelf Product Director, Lisa Keefe, to talk about fundamental and likely permanent changes in how students consume content and instructors measure its impact. Keefe has led product research, roadmapping, and management within the technology space for more than a decade. 
COVID19 has made a clear impact on higher education. From your perspective, how has the pandemic affected the classroom experience?
Lisa: Well, let’s start with the obvious; the classroom experience of today is much different than that of past generations. The pandemic created a pause of “normal” for campuses everywhere. But the side effect of that pause unearthed an unexpected opportunity to re-evaluate the learning experience. Based on what we’re seeing happen on campus, it’s become really clear that, in most cases, the normal of our past was far from optimal.
So what happens after that aha moment?
Lisa: They run for the hills! Just kidding, of course. Like most conversations about change, it happens in different ways and at different speeds depending on the campus situation. But there is a clear, common thread across most of the campuses we work with. Willing or not, the shift to hybrid and remote learning required faculty to lean on a new toolset that was fueled by technology. For the majority of faculty, the old normal approach to teaching relied heavily on the face-to-face interactions of a traditional lecture, lab, or discussion. But when everything went remote virtually overnight, technology became a must-have to teach course material and connect with students in new ways.
Do you think faculty will revert to their old approach as they return to campus?
Lisa: You’re actually touching on what is likely the biggest takeaway. While it may be expected that an instructor’s teaching methods and daily routine will be hard to change, the pandemic-related shift to technology seems to have a different trajectory. The use of technology to connect, engage, and measure, is likely here to stay. In my opinion, we’re watching education define a new normal.

Why will this shift to reliance on technology hold into the future?
Lisa: You don’t have to look very far for proof. Faculty and students are telling us. In fact, recent surveys in higher education suggest that students and staff aren’t quite ready to give up some of the newfound benefits they’ve discovered through the use of technology. And, in fact, they appear to want even more. So as most campuses return to
in-person instruction, we should expect that the new technology—tools that helped schools and faculty survive and sustain classroom continuity during the pandemic—will become a fundamental, permanent fixture of the classroom experience into our future.

If that’s the expected “new normal,” how has it changed your day-to-day conversations with schools? For example, has the new reliance on technology changed what a school or what faculty asks from RedShelf?
Lisa: It has definitely intensified concerns about educational continuity, data privacy and security, and the overall user
experience. Schools are looking for secure, stress-free and consistent learning experiences that extend from on-campus to off-campus while eliminating unnecessary platforms, workflows, credentials, and logins. That focus, however, hasn’t eclipsed the importance of student outcomes, so we are enhancing our ability to track participation,
engagement, and overall understanding for faculty—also on and off-campus.
Beyond that, schools are looking for technology that integrates well with existing tools—like the way RedShelf integrates with LMSs—to streamline access to materials and courseware without adding risk to data privacy or security. This also reduces risks associated with having multiple, custom integrations with individual publishers. Overall, we’re seeing more school administrators roll up their sleeves and take active roles in these important campus store and course material conversations. That’s a clear sign that many schools have embraced the benefits of digital delivery for the long term, and that they recognize how an integrated digital distribution model could positively impact student outcomes, enrollment, and retention.

You used three words—participation, engagement, understanding—we’ve heard a lot, haven’t we?
Lisa: It isn’t really that they’re new topics of conversation, it’s about a shift in how they are measured. In practice, technology has provided campus and faculty with a very positive side effect—access to new, much-needed data that can improve learning and inform teaching. And that data is now providing a great value in measuring student success—both individually and at the classroom level.

Can you give an example?
Lisa: With traditional, print textbook-based learning, it is often difficult for an instructor to assess whether students have done their reading, and whether they understood it. With digital course materials, instructors can collect data and then course correct in real time. For example, data can highlight students who have tuned out, allowing an instructor to reach out individually to students and help them re-engage with the class. Broader class trends can help the instructor identify places of confusion and address those learning gaps immediately or in the next class lecture.

How is RedShelf addressing these changes for its customers?
Lisa: Our award-winning eReader gives instructors data on whether students are using their textbooks and how much time they spend reading. And this summer we’re rolling out RedShelf Classroom, an optional eBook upgrade that allows instructors to assess reading comprehension and to see all the data in one dashboard. It shows how an entire class is doing and allows the instructor to drill into individual student metrics. It also identifies students who are falling
behind, or might need that extra support.

In a nutshell, we’re helping faculty answer some very basic, fundamental questions, tied to student success...Did my student actually read the book? Did they understand what they read? And depending on the answer to those questions, we’re providing new ways to react to results—a way to ask additional questions directly in the course material and not in another document outside of the book. For example, if an instructor wrote a confusing question
that everyone failed to answer correctly, the RedShelf Classroom data will bring that to their attention on the dashboard. It offers this valuable, real time feedback to both students and instructors, allowing both parties to monitor progress, understanding, and learning as they go.

For our campus store partners, these shifts are creating great opportunities to build relationships and reinforce their expertise. If there was ever an ideal time to solidify the importance of the campus store, it’s now. As the local course material experts, campus stores have found a new opportunity to sit at the center of those key conversations. Whether it is selling the benefits of RedShelf Classroom, or helping educate campus constituents on the transition to digital-first distribution, it’s a proactive time for the campus store.

Is RedShelf Classroom a quiz platform?
Lisa: Yes, but it’s more than that. In addition to inserting quiz questions, it allows faculty to create custom reading assignments with specific start and end dates, and to add notes to students and multimedia assets throughout the eBook. And, as I mentioned, it provides a dashboard of all related student and class analytics. RedShelf Classroom provides schools and their faculty with a new way to elevate course materials. While we’re seeing more and more publishers create sophisticated courseware platforms, most of higher education’s library of digital course materials look just like their printed counterparts. The RedShelf eReader changes this reality through all sorts of built-in study tools and interactivity. By upgrading to RedShelf Classroom, we’re enabling instructors to unlock even more tools, enabling them to interact with students and monitor learning.


Up Next: Bye Bye, Bound Books? Part II - The Changing Role of the Campus Store

Tags: #ForefrontofDigital, #InclusiveAccess