New trends in course materials aim to help Millennials

Digital vs. Print

When it comes to print vs. digital formats for course materials, a student’s personal preference is key. Despite the fact that they generally carry a higher price tag, 46 percent of students reported that they prefer print course materials because of familiarity and the ability to physically use them.

Still, digital course materials are slowly but steadily seeing greater adoption, with a 3 percent increase in use this academic year alone. Students who choose digital course materials most appreciate the convenience of mobility, with price and versatility of digital functionality (such as search and find) listed as other major benefits. Students in the survey also stated that they appreciate the interactive nature of the materials, which they indicated improves their ability to study and learn the coursework.

Price vs. Number of Materials

Although student spending on course materials is down, the number of course materials acquired has remained consistent across fall academic terms. In Fall 2009, students obtained 5.3 course materials on average, which, despite a drop to 5.0 in Fall 2013, was the same average recorded in Fall 2014 (these numbers exclude course materials obtained for free through borrowing, sharing, or downloading illegally).

“This is a true reflection of a decrease in prices,” said Riddle. “This number has remained relatively consistent over time; however, student spending on course materials has continued to drop. So this information suggests that on average, the cost of course materials is slowly decreasing while the number of required course materials students are obtaining for each class may be slightly increasing.”

Savvy Shopping Thanks to Tech

Overall, students surveyed have also become savvier shoppers, spending more time researching affordable options through multiple outlets thanks to the use of price comparison technology. Many college websites host such software, which compares prices of new or used course materials for purchase or rent both in-store and online with many online-only retailers, enabling students to make the best choices at their own convenience.

College Bookstores Still King

However, as to where students are ultimately buying course materials, college stores remain the top choice among students for in-person and online purchases, rentals, and end-of-term returns, notes the report. Students obtain the largest portion of their course materials from the campus store over any other source, with 66 percent having purchased at least one course material there.

Of students who made a purchase at the college store, 55 percent were loyal to the store and did not shop elsewhere, allowing college bookstores to maintain the largest market share for course materials in both units and dollars. Campus stores also maintain the lion’s share of the rental business, claiming nearly half of online book rental shoppers alone.

The Student Watch survey is conducted online each fall and spring term after being distributed to students via e-mail from campus stores. The Spring 2015 survey received 9,647 valid responses in February 2015 from 23 campuses across 16 states, including both public and private and two-year and four-year degree programs, as well as schools of different enrollment sizes and geographic locations.

Take a look at the entire report, and infographic, here.