What's Driving College Course Materials in 2018 & Beyond?

Several forces are at work in the U.S. market for higher education instructional materials, which Simba Information believes likely will have a long-term impact on the role of course materials in colleges and universities in the coming years.

Market factors such as institutional refocusing of curriculum or changes in curriculum requirements and distribution options likely will have direct implications for the development and dissemination of course materials.

These future implications and many more market trends and factors are discussed in Simba Information’s new report, College Course Materials Trends & Outlook 2018-2020, which is the second forward-looking part of Simba Information’ two-volume analysis of the U.S. higher education market.

Institutional Changes and the Focus on Student Outcomes

Student outcomes, or student success, have been on the strategic agenda in higher education discussions for many years, and the topic appears to be gathering steam. Education publishers stress that student success can be achieved through their course materials, and college leaders increasingly are pushing student success to the top of their strategic implementation to-do lists.

Most recently, a research study released inf November 2017 by student management system provider Unit4 found that institutions’ goals are focused on student outcomes and the institutional structure has evolved to better support student success initiatives in the past two years.

At the top of the student success initiative priority list was student retention, which captured a 73% response rate among 150 higher education IT decision-makers from institutions with an average of 6,000 students. Also on the list were course completion rates and time-to-graduation.

It appears that higher education institutions are attempting a number of approaches that would create a climate of student success: 24% of survey respondents said their institutions have shifted enrollment approaches to target students whom they deem to be a best fit. And 62% of survey respondents reported that their institutions recently updated student portals in an attempt to create a better climate of student success.

Despite the frequency with which data analytics come up in any conversation about educational reform, just over one-third (37%) of higher education institutions are leveraging data and analytics to enhance student success and drive initiatives.

Re-Thinking Curriculums

Throughout the higher education segment, the conversation not only is about student success but also curriculum relevance. Particularly in regard to required courses, one question in particular that arises among students is the perennial ‘Why do I have to take this?’ The one area of study under most pressure on college campuses is liberal arts, particularly as focus has shifted to providing instruction in certifiable skills that are seen as crucial to success outside of the academic world.

For instance, Rollins College in Florida, while still sticking with its Rollins Foundation in the Liberal Arts (rFLA) – a designated course path to fulfill the general education requirements – the college is making changes to address student concerns. Among such changes in the program, which is expected to continue evolving, rFLA courses will have to demonstrate relevance to each other. And a two-credit career-development course may be added to the competencies.

Higher Education Mission Debates 

Debates regarding the mission and strategies of higher education institutions are ongoing, and the current climate is the same as it was in past years. Changing views of and need for higher education remain in discussion among college administrators, students, and business leaders who seek new ways to provide postsecondary education in meaningful ways.

Policies and materials to support student success is another hot topic that is showing no signs of slowing down; higher education institution are trying whatever methods possible to create a climate of student success - several states are tying funding to performance in terms of student outcomes. Course materials providers also must consider the additional conversation in the higher education market on curriculum relevance. The one area of study under most pressure on college campuses today is liberal arts, as the focus has shifted to providing instruction in certifiable skills. The high-tide level of the debate over liberal arts has ebbed and flowed over the decades, and it is again at a high point currently.

For more information on the higher education instructional materials market and its leading publishers, check out Simba Information’s State of College Course Materials 2016-2017.

And be sure to visit Educational Marketer for further competitive business coverage of the school and college publishing market.