University of Michigan faculty, instructors and staff will soon transition to a new online textbook and course material selection platform designed to personalize the process and promote more affordable alternatives for students.
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The site operated by Barnes & Noble College will launch Oct. 2 and replace the textbook data entry pages on Wolverine Access.
Beginning with the upcoming winter semester, the BNC Adoption & Insights Portal will be the required platform for faculty, instructors and staff to select textbooks for upcoming classes and for U-M to notify students of their textbook and course materials needs and costs, a legal requirement of the Higher Education Opportunity Act.
The platform, developed with significant input from the university, includes features specifically designed to meet the unique needs of the U-M community. It is integrated with Wolverine Access and optimized to support an institution with a large instructor base and highly diverse curriculum with a large number of course sections each term, said Jonathan Shar, senior vice president for revenue and product development at Barnes & Noble Education Inc., the parent company of BNC.
“The platform is highly personalized for faculty and instructors,” Shar said. “They are directed to a unique page that lists only the courses they are assigned to teach, ensuring the platform is easy to use. The platform is designed to support academic freedom, provide the institution with real-time visibility into the adoption process, promote course material affordability and facilitate student academic success.”
Faculty and staff should expect to receive information on the transition directly from BNC in the coming weeks.
The new platform includes a number of features and functions that will allow users to:
- Conduct more robust searches, including by International Standard Book Number, author name and keywords.
- See current prices of textbooks in a variety of conditions and formats — new, used, digital, rental, etc. — to consider affordability when selecting materials.
- Search for open educational resources.
- Review textbooks and course materials used in the past and easily “re-adopt” them.
- Access dedicated support from BNC specialists during the textbook selection process and afterward if there are any fulfillment issues.
That ability to personalize the experience is something developers believe will be of top interest to users, Shar said.
The new process will provide myriad benefits to faculty and staff who select materials, as well as the students who purchase them, said Paul Robinson, associate vice provost and university registrar.
“Students benefit by being able to more easily find textbooks and course materials at fair and affordable prices,” Robinson said. “They are able to have the materials shipped to designated campus locations or their home address. The faculty experience for listing textbooks and related materials should be less burdensome, too.”
This new platform also will help the university ensure it is meeting the provisions of the Higher Education Opportunity Act which requires institutions to provide textbook information — including pricing information and ISBNs — as part of its online or printed schedule of classes.
Units and departments that have arranged for special pricing from publishers or other suppliers will be asked to reach out to BNC to share this information and ensure that accurate pricing information is posted on the student-facing website.
The university signed an agreement with Barnes & Noble Education Inc. in April 2018 to develop and implement the new processes designed to provide greater cost insights to students, simplify the faculty experience, ensure texts are available when students need them and address customer service issues efficiently.
The student-facing site launched last school year. Course-materials information entered in the BNC portal is viewable by students from their course schedules and other locations via a U-M online bookstore. Students are then able to view pricing and purchase or rental options and determine the best way to procure their textbooks for the upcoming term.
As part of the agreement, BNC offers a number of customer service options specifically for U-M instructors, including face-to-face assistance at campus locations, a customer support phone number with extended hours, virtual assistants, and a dedicated campus textbook liaison who works with publishers and assists in identifying alternative options when texts aren’t available.
“Our plan is to continually improve the product through additional software releases as we assess user feedback and analytics,” Shar said. “We are committed to continuously adding new features and functionality that will make the product easier to use and more valuable to the University of Michigan.”
Two on-campus Barnes & Noble College locations — one in Pierpont Commons and one in the renovated Michigan Union when it reopens in winter 2020 — no longer stock textbooks on shelves. Instead, the locations serve as hubs to pick up and return textbook orders which helps to better track material inventory and support affordability. Other elements of a traditional campus bookstore are still present, including student academic and art supplies, U-M branded gear, commencement regalia and other retail goods.
BNC’s online store provides students with a variety of options to buy new or used, rent, or download as digital. It also hosts a marketplace for students to resell to one another and offer selection tools, such as cost comparisons. BNC operates more than 1,400 physical and virtual bookstores, serves more than 6 million students and faculty, and operates one of the largest textbook wholesale distribution channels in the United States.