by Noah Depner and Lance Hinsley, staff writers
This spring, PPCC had a handful of issues with textbooks that its hoping to fix for future semesters.
Although the majority of students could access their free textbooks through Desire to Learn (D2L) online, roughly 20% required a physical copy that not only cost money, but a considerable amount more than initially expected. Not to mention, some textbooks were only accessible online which alienated the students who preferred physical copies of their textbooks.
Prior to the semester, students were required to go through the Barnes and Noble website to acquire their textbooks. However, there was a disconnect between which books were required for certain classes and which ones were recommended. Joel Bagley, manager of Auxiliary Services at PPCC, said, “what is considered to be a required textbook versus [a] recommended textbook seems to have caused confusion across the board.”
These problems caused a lot of frustration and confusion among students and faculty. Professors had a difficult time following the same texts with their students to teach their curriculum.
English Professor Emily Forand works to implement Open Educational Resources for students on campus (OER). For her and many other teachers, the confusion among students getting the right textbooks made it challenging to teach everyone on the same level. She said, “I think it was an email from one of my colleagues saying my student said they cannot get their book. They are all out and there’s no estimated time of arrival.”
When asked about how the textbook conflicts affected her teaching, she said, “I adapt my classes so that I don’t assign something that can only be found in a textbook for the first three weeks… they have multiple ways of accessing it that don’t require getting a textbook.”
Forand, much like other professors, looks into her students’ issues to ensure that they can learn with the same materials as other students in her class. She mentioned that 13 weeks into the semester a student couldn’t find an essay that was in the textbook. She said, “that’s been in the course textbooks the entire semester, but that communication is still hard [without a textbook].”
Students who may require physical copies could be alienated from following the same track. English Professor, Sylva Miller has worked at PPCC for 20 years. She chimed in on the confusion between students and staff concerning the textbook rollout: “They assumed their professor or instructor was involved in the free textbook rollout and expected them to take care of it… However, for the 20% or so who needed printed material (either a real textbook or a printout of the online materials) due to accessibility issues and personal preference, they experienced quite a shock when Barnes and Noble informed them it would cost $150.”
Concerns like these have caused frustration among students who prefer or require physical copies. An anonymous student told the Paper that they have yet to receive a physical copy he ordered form the bookstore with the Spring semester coming to a close.
Yet even with troubling concerns, the new partnership between Barnes and Noble overseeing operations of the PPCC bookstore is not an uncommon practice. “Most colleges have already gone in the direction of having an outside company run their bookstore operations,” Miller said.
“It’s important to remember that new partnerships like these have their problems and both Barnes and Noble and PPCC still have the same goal,” said Vice President of Instructional Services, Jacquelyn Gaiters-Jordan.
This goal still in mind, Barnes and Noble and PPCC look forward to making the textbook acquiring process easier for students in the fall. “PPCC’s goal in partnering with Barnes & Noble is to provide a more cost-effective operating model for products and services provided by [the] bookstore… Providing lower-cost course-material options is key to supporting student success and driving savings for students,” Gaiters-Jordan said.
Auxiliary Services works with retail operations within the college including copy/print services that provide physical texts to students and staff. Bagley serves as manager but also as the point-of-contact between Barnes and Noble and PPCC, including assisting in disputes. When asked about resolving the complaints received about cost or required textbooks, Bagley said, “Each complaint was handled on an individual basis, whether it was a student or faculty member, or in a few cases with parents. Between myself, the director of business services, or Barnes and Noble management, we would coordinate resolutions to often complex issues to make the customer happy. Going so far as to ensure the shipping of textbooks to overseas locations for service members and their families.”
As for solutions for the fall semester, Bagley said, “In fall, there will not be a need to manually verify a student order against a roster to ensure payment like under the Cares Act free textbook program. The expectation will be that Barnes’s [Barnes and Noble] role will be more direct interaction with customers, both with students and departments.”
Bagley and PPCC look to decrease the confusion so students have an easier way to access materials.
These negotiations are exactly that, negotiations, meaning this problem is still being solved. Yet, as education continues to evolve, it’s important for colleges and universities to account for the rapid spread of information in today’s society. The information that students and professors struggle to connect with can be found online in a simple click. Actions like these can devalue learning, especially in higher educational institutions where the average price of an e-book can cost a student roughly $30-$40 (educationdata.org).
That being said, it’s also important for professors and students to be on the same page. Forand still adapts every semester for the new crop of students she introduces herself to. She said, “Teachers have become really good at adapting. We change our jobs every 15 weeks.”
Evolutions in education and technology have made it difficult to make the same educational resources accessible to every student. We saw it this semester with students not being able to access their preferred materials. Yet, PPCC and Barnes and Noble plan to find an easier method for students to access their materials in an affordable way come time for the fall semester.