Course materials play a pivotal role in student success. Whether or not students have their materials by the start of class can have a significant impact on their ability to keep up with the course. It also affects how teachers are able to do their job. How have the recent changes in the educational landscape influenced course materials and students’ expectations?
Recently, we sat down with Regional Sales Manager Max Garrett to discuss the evolution of the course material industry and the importance of providing students with reliable, affordable options.
What is the biggest change you have seen in the course material industry?
Just how rapidly course content distribution is evolving. 15 years ago, the only thing textbook managers had to consider was how many used copies they could put on the shelves and then backfill with new. Rush came, and books sold. Now there are so many options — digital, rental, OER, marketplace, different publisher distribution models, etc. — on top of new and used print.
How has the change impacted college stores and students?
Students are looking to save money and get their content wherever they can achieve that cost-saving goal — many times, to their own harm. When they order from unreliable sources and they get materials after classes begin, students can fall behind.
That’s why college stores work very hard to supply affordable course materials, great service and the on-campus convenience of a brick-and-mortar store. This can be a challenge for smaller campus stores if they just don’t have the staffing, time and resources to explore all available options.
What are some of the best practices for college stores in the current industry climate?
In addition to cost saving solutions, I firmly believe customer service is still critical. Wherever you shop, you remember poor customer service. Likewise, you remember superior customer service and that determines the likelihood you will be a repeat customer. If students know they will get great service in your store, they will come back.
What are some of the ways college stores drive student traffic?
College store staffs can be incredibly creative about finding new ways to reach students with limited time and resources. One impactful way is to use current students on campus. Another is to work with different student organizations on campus to help determine the best way to market your brand, like student marketing classes or student leadership groups. Also, don’t forget to utilize your own team of student employees to keep your social media efforts relevant — but be clear about what your brand’s message is to help guide student efforts. Students can help plan events and give you great insight on how to reach their peers, including which social media platforms are the most popular.
Another thing stores do to appeal to students is try to stay current with technology. Students are very savvy and will quickly tire of websites that do not fit screens properly and are not easy to use. They want intuitive online shopping that seamlessly transitions to the store — a true omnichannel experience.
How do college stores keep their voice in campus discussions about course materials?
Get out and talk to faculty and administrators. They need to know what you offer — convenience, expertise and campus support. Join boards that are discussing course materials or attend meetings where they will be discussed. Make sure you are in the position to share your expertise and all that you do to help keep student costs down.
Why are hybrid solutions gaining in popularity and what options are available through MBS?
It is interesting that administrators and store personnel are looking at hybrid solutions. Textbook inventory is a huge investment of resources. If that investment sits on the shelf and eventually gets returned or written off, that is a major cost burden for the institution. Hybrid solutions can provide greater flexibility for stores in a changing market.
Every school is different and so is the solution that will best fit their needs. If taking textbooks online and keeping a campus store is the best fit for your school, MBS can provide customized options. We can help if you want the store to be the distribution point, if you want delivery to be direct to student or a combination. We can also customize solutions for textbook rental returns and buybacks. In addition, MBS has a state-of-the-art POS solution to help with running your campus store. We offer a complete array of solutions to best serve all of our clients.
Where do you think the course materials industry is headed?
Nobody really knows, but many speculate. In 2000, some very smart people predicted digital would take over in five years. It didn’t happen. Even with all the different ways course content is being distributed nowadays, print is still relevant and will be for some time.