Using Publisher Materials

Different Types of Publisher Materials

There are basically two types of publisher-supplied materials: Materials you link to and materials you import. Below are questions to ask a publisher whose electronic materials you are considering adopting for use in your course. There is a lot to consider.

Materials You Link To

These materials take many forms, but the most common form is the password-controlled entry to the publisher's own website. For example, you have students purchase a textbook and they get a password that gains them access to the publisher's website where they can view materials and perhaps even take interactive quizzes.

Advantages
  • You don't have to create or maintain the material (also can be a disadvantage - see below).
  • Students may get access to more sophisticated materials than you'd ever have time to create.
  • Materials and exercises match up well.
  • No copyright problems (publisher assumes responsibility).
Disadvantages
  • Since you didn't create the material, you have no control over what's there - publisher can (and will) change the materials without telling you.
  • If the publisher's site goes down, you are stuck - and the student help desk won't be able to help because no one at PCC has any control over what the publisher does or doesn't do.
  • There are "lock-in" problems with using publisher materials: the publisher wants you to become dependent on his materials so you will always require students to buy them.
  • Used books may not have a usable access code. Access codes are typically set up for one-time use.
  • There are accessibility problems with many publishers' materials. PCC is required by federal law to provide accessible online courses.

Materials You Import

These materials also take many forms, but the most common form is a bank of quiz questions you can import to your question library and then sample from.

Advantages
  • You don't have to create the material but you may get a lot of control over it - may get to customize it.
  • Students may get access to more sophisticated materials than you'd ever have time to create.
  • Materials and exercises match up well.
  • No copyright problems (publisher assumes responsibility).
  • Since the materials live within PCC's LMS, you'll have the support of the Distance Learning department in importing it, maintaining it, and supporting it if anything goes wrong.
Disadvantages
  • There can be a steep learning curve to import and use the materials (e.g. may have to learn to use Respondus to import a test bank).
  • Interoperability with PCC systems may not be allowed by PCC Information Security Policies and Standards.
  • When the publisher decides to change the materials (which may happen every six months), your imported materials and the text may no longer match and you'll need to download updated materials and reconfigure them.
  • There are "lock-in" problems with using publisher materials: the publisher wants you to become dependent on their materials so you will always require students to buy them.
  • There are accessibility problems with many publishers' materials. PCC is required by federal law to provide accessible online courses.

Questions to ask Publishers (preferably before adopting their materials)

Ask about the Accessibility of their Materials:

All instructional materials must be accessible to students with disabilities. Ask prospective publishers these questions to assess whether their content is accessible. If you need any assistance in verifying the accessibility of the materials, please contact Karen Sorensen in Instructional Support or Kaela Parks in Disability Services.

Are the videos captioned and audio recordings transcribed?
There should be transcripts for audio recordings and captions or subtitles for video. If there are not, ask the publishing representative if they would provide a captioned version in a timely manner if a student who needed them registered for your class.
Can all of the text that is displayed on the screen be read aloud by text-to-speech software?
Screen readers (assistive technology used by people who are blind) read real text. They cannot read images of text or text embedded in Flash animations/movies/simulations.
How accessible are the E-books?
Check to see if you can find a Document Accessibility Profile (DAP) (currently in beta) on the e-book. The goal of DAP is to make it easy to find and use accessibility information for electronic textbooks and other documents,
Can all interactivity (media players, quizzes, flashcards, etc.) be completed by keyboard alone (no mouse required)?
People who are blind or people who have upper mobility disabilities cannot use a mouse. They use the keyboard to navigate and interact with the Web. It is required that any interactive elements on the publisher's website (or on a DVD included with the book) be operable by a keyboard alone if they are used in your course. For example: An interactive exercise that requires dragging and dropping is not keyboard accessible, so unless there is a keyboard option to dragging and dropping, that sort of exercise should not be used in your course.
Is there any documentation available (VPAT or White Paper for example) that confirms accessibility or usability testing results?
A VPAT is a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. It is used by many organizations to report the level of accessibility of their software products. If the publisher doesn't have a VPAT or any research that confirms the accessibility of their product(s), don't just take their word for how accessible they are. Ask them these questions and contact Karen Sorensen in Instructional Support/Distance Learning or Kaela Parks in Disability Services if you need any assistance in verifying the accessibility of a publisher' materials.

If any of these answers are "No", you might want to consider a different publisher.

Ask about Security:

The content and student access must comply with the PCC Information Security Policies and Standards. For more information, please contact the PCC Help Desk.

Ask about the Usability and Interoperability of their Materials:

You need to consider all of these aspects when adopting outside materials.If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the interim Manager of Technology and Support in Distance Education and Instructional Support, Andy Freed.

Is your multimedia (Adobe) Flash or (Oracle) Java-based? (Another way to put this, is "Can your materials be watched on an iPad?")
Content created in Flash and or Java can be inaccessible and may not run on mobile devices and tablets, which are becoming more prevalent.
Does any software need to be installed on student or PCC computers?
If software needs to be installed on PCC computers in a particular lab, consult with that lab's coordinator.
What are the computer requirements for using their materials? Will the materials work on mobile devices?
Distance Learning tells online students that these are the computer requirements for taking an online course. If your course requirements are greater or for a classroom-based course, make the computer requirements known in the class schedule.
How will students get access to the materials?
Does it require an access code? If so, students should be aware that used books may not have the necessary access code or may have an old unusable code.
Can the electronic content be made available for purchase through the bookstore?
Some students would like to own the material so they have it for future reference (rather than just online during the term.)