Impact of an Unlimited E-Book Subscription Service and Digital Learning Solution in Management Education at A Minority Serving University

Nicole A. Buzzetto-Hollywood, Leesa Thomas-Banks
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 21  •  2022  •  pp. 597-622

The exorbitant cost of traditional textbooks, which particularly impact low-income, underrepresented minority groups, can be a barrier to student success in higher education that contributes to educational inequities. The aim of this multi-methodology study, conducted at a mid-Atlantic minority-serving institution that serves primarily first-generation and lower-income learners, is to explore the impact of, and student satisfaction with, a one-price per-semester unlimited e-book subscription service and digital learning solution that includes a number of embedded interactive features, adaptive student learning activities, and learning outcome assessments. In addition, the paper is purposed to inform individuals in higher education so that they can make knowledgeable decisions when considering various book acquisition options.

A mid-Atlantic minority-serving institution becomes an early adopter of a one-price per semester unlimited e-book and interactive digital learning subscription service. Following adoption, a quantitative assessment regime was conducted to inform the institution.

Pass-fail rates for selected courses were compared before and following implementation and cost savings estimates in U.S. dollars were generated in collaboration with the bookstore and publisher. Additionally, student satisfaction and perceived learning efficacy survey were created and distributed.

This paper contributes significantly to the literature as it includes a population that is frequently neglected in studies that primarily are concentrated at traditionally white institutions (TWIs) with very low enrollments of Black students.

A positive increase in course pass rates was found. Most students expressed having been concerned about paying for books in prior semesters, that college textbooks cost too much, have struggled to purchase textbooks in the past, believe that the subscription plan helps students save money, and would like to see widespread adoption. With respect to the digital learning solution, the students found it easy to use, appreciated the integrated interactive features, believed the system helped them to learn more and stay on schedule, and were largely in agreement that they would like it adopted in more of their classes. When correlations, crosstabulations, and Chi-Square tests were conducted, students who indicated having the greatest financial concerns were stronger in their satisfaction with the unlimited e-book subscription plan and most likely to want to see a similar plan adopted in all of their courses.

To better meet the needs of students, remove barriers to student success, and improve student learning outcomes, universities must play a role in delivering affordable student-centered course content.

E-book subscription services are a relatively new model and one that requires extensive exploration in order to examine the impact on student learning outcomes as well as perceived learner satisfaction.

The implications of this study are that the adoption of an unlimited e-book subscription that includes access to high-quality digital learning resources positions institutions of higher education well in the instance of a global pandemic or other catastrophic events that causes the sudden pivot to remote instruction. Additionally, such a system has both a positive impact on student achievement as well as perceived favorably by students. Further, the adoption of a low-cost subscription option is particularly beneficial to students who struggle financially.

It is the goal of the authors to partner with scholars at a broad range of institutions to further extend this line of inquiry.

e-book, e-book subscription, HBCU, minority education, first-generation learners, Cengage Unlimited, MindTap, student learning success, e-learning, affordable course content, learning materials
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