Guidelines for Adopting Publisher Content

There are many high-quality textbooks and ancillary materials out there that can complement your teaching and help student meet your course outcomes. Some are even open and free! For the last several years, there has been a greater focus on external websites with dynamic, adaptive, and engaging applications. These can be great tools that would be impossible for an individual instructor to replicate, but there are some challenges to adopting this content.

We strongly encourage that you ask these questions before making a decision to adopt new content.

  1. Is the content accessible?
  2. Who provides support?
  3. Are there additional costs?
  4. Does the vendor comply with PCC policies?
  5. Does it use appropriate technology?

Now, let’s break those questions down a little more.

Is it accessible?

Federal law requires that higher education institutions that receive federal funding make all instructional materials accessible to all students. And the college has an Accessible Technology Policy that you should refer to while evaluating content. Unfortunately, publishers are not governed by these same laws. So content or tools on a publisher’s website could present accessibility problems. We at PCC cannot make changes to the publishers’ websites. So if barriers exist, an accessibility plan will need to be developed to ensure all students can achieve the course’s outcomes.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • Are the videos captioned and audio transcribed?
  • Can the content be accessed by a screen reader?
  • Are all activities navigable and usable by a student using only a keyboard?
  • Does the vendor have a VPAT or WCAG 2.0 AA compliance statement?

We’re happy to help with these questions. If you need a publisher’s homework site or any other non-PCC, non-D2L tool that you use or want to use in your online course, tested for accessibility, please contact Kaela Parks in Disability Services or Heather Guevara in Online Learning. Also, check our list of accessibility tested software and web applications (PCC employees only).

Who provides support?

Our Student Help Desk loves helping students. But they can’t help with software that they have no access to, no background with, and no training in using. So support for 3rd party tools like a publisher website need to be supported by the vendor. Many will respond that they have 24/7 support for students. It’s good to clarify what that means though since many have a website or an email address that a student can submit a problem at any time, but it doesn’t mean that they can get a response at any time. One of the issues we frequently hear from upset students about is the lack of a phone number to get support. Many vendors do have them, but they make it very difficult to find. So please ask if they provide telephone support for students. And get the number to add to your syllabus.

Are there additional costs?

Cost is usually covered in the regular discussion when you are evaluating texts. But now there are many options for acquiring content, and a new state bill that requires that colleges disclose textbook costs in the schedule. Our students are thrifty, so they will often try to find additional ways to save money on material costs. Sometimes, the price you negotiate with the publisher is based on a bundle of the text and the ancillary material. But if a student wants to buy a used text, they may find that the unbundled access code is more expensive than the bundled version.

In the context of student costs, one thing to consider is the ongoing cost of the material. If access is a short-term license, what is the cost to a student who needs the material for more than one term? Or wants to keep the material for future reference? Many newer licenses make it cost prohibitive for use beyond one term. And lastly, what value is lost to students who are unable to sell back their text once the term is over?

Any additional costs need to be disclosed on your Course Details page if you have an online class.

Does the vendor comply with PCC policies?

The content and student access must comply with the PCC Information Security Policy. For publisher content, please specifically see the Cloud and Infrastructure Services Policy, which covers ownership of data. This is particularly important for since some publisher claim ownership of student work. Other policies may apply as well.

Does it use appropriate technology?

We’re happy to help with this, but there are a few key questions that will help identify if there are any red flags.

  1. Does it require a plugin? (e.g. Flash, Java, etc.) If so, students are going to have problems. Desktop browsers are dropping support for plugins and most mobile devices don’t even support them.
  2. Do students need to install any software? If so, they may not be able to use it on campus. And you might not either. If you require software be installed, contact your campus IT manager to discuss the requirements. They can help you make sure software gets installed before your class starts.
  3. Does it work on mobile devices? Your students are using devices heavily so mobile compatibility is important.