Five Ways to Effectively Scale Inclusive Access on Your Campus

Colleges and universities are improving access, affordability, and student achievement with digital delivery of course materials.

In today’s higher education landscape, schools face mounting pressure to increase student learning outcomes while simultaneously lowering the cost of attendance.

The introduction of inclusive access (IA) programs over the last five years has proven to be one of the most effective strategies for addressing these issues. IA is a streamlined program through which campuses provide students with automated access to the most affordable digital course materials beginning their first day of class. Through these digital content delivery programs, students are ensured access to the most affordable course materials and are more engaged with content, resulting in improved grades and decreased drop rates. It’s a win-win for all parties involved.

Because of the endless benefits, IA is gaining momentum and appears here to stay. Hundreds of campuses have introduced IA, typically piloting the program with a handful of gen ed courses. As campuses find success with pilot programs, scaling is the next achievable step, but scale requires alignment amongst all parties involved, and collaboration amongst partners. For those looking to effectively expand their programs, there are several best practices to take note of.

Find Your Campus Champion

To successfully bring an IA program to a larger scale, you need a campus advocate. This advocate is typically a professor that was introduced to the program by a publisher representative or participated in a beta. However, advocates can also take the form of bookstore managers, CFOs, provosts, or the student affairs office, among others. This advocate is someone with an incentive or desire to improve affordability, student outcomes, or digital initiatives; is willing to take on the calculated risk; and has the ability to bring all the right stakeholders to the table. It doesn’t matter who your advocate is, as long as there’s someone who can continue pushing for inclusive access on campus.

Educate All Stakeholders

The IA model involves numerous stakeholders—faculty, bookstore managers, publisher representatives, learning management system administrators, digital distribution partners, and campus leadership. To ensure buy-in from all involved and to ensure a streamlined process, education and alignment around the program is essential.

Your campus champion plays a critical role in driving home the mission and goals of the program, ensuring buy-in from all stakeholders, and educating participants about the processes and workflows of the system. For training purposes, hosting webinars and training sessions in addition to creating collateral can ensure a full understanding of the program. Since each stakeholder has a different role within the model, the more collaboration you can cultivate, the more you’ll be able to integrate and automate workflows.

Bring on a Digital Distribution Partner

When first piloting inclusive access programs, many campuses handle the process without third-party vendors. However, as your program begins to scale, optimizing your technology is key. A digital distribution partner will assist with automating processes, setting up a better infrastructure for scaling, and improving the program as the market continues to innovate. When you’re comparing digital distribution partners, it’s important to evaluate their expanse of publisher partnerships, their reputation across other campuses, and their understanding of the needs and wants of your campus.

Create a Seamless Student Experience

Maintaining a simple, seamless student experience within the IA model is also of critical importance. From faculty adoptions and related communications to delivery and billing, many workflows and systems (LMS, POS, SIS) must be thoughtfully integrated to ensure frictionless experiences. A digital distribution partner can assist you with remaining up-to-date as technology evolves, while helping to lessen your workload.

Engage Students with Clear Communication

As you roll out the IA model, clear communication with students is critical to establishing a baseline understanding and winning buy-in. The campus advocate can ensure professors and bookstore managers are armed with the assets they need to communicate details around the program, as clear communication should be incorporated into every touchpoint for the students. This is another area where a digital distribution partner can assist, providing communication tools already built into the platform. Successful inclusive access programs have prioritized communication, resulting in low opt-out rates and increased student satisfaction.

Ready to Scale?

IA has enjoyed significant success on campuses across the country, especially with those who have effectively scaled their programs. The course materials landscape is evolving, as signified by several leading publishers making commitments to reduce print and move to digital-only models in the future. With this increased movement from print to digital course materials, the inclusive access model is positioned to be one of the most effective models for future success.

This model has proven to be a productive strategy for increasing retention and student performance, decreasing late withdrawals, and providing more affordable options for students. Introducing and scaling an inclusive access program on your campus isn’t rocket science; with a little work, the benefits far outweigh any obstacles of implementation.

About the Author

Tom Scotty is the chief operating officer for Redshelf (, a supplier of digital learning materials.

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