eTexts Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
These FAQs represent an ongoing dialogue with the IU community as the eText initiative evolves.
Questions about eTexts
What is an eText?
eText is the shorthand term that describes the emerging digital version of textbooks and other educational resources. eTexts are inclusive of content such as workbooks, problem sets, tutorials, videos, simulations, and interactive software.
What is an eText fee?
The eText fee is a variable fee that is charged to each student in an eText section. The eText fee is collected by the bursar and sent to the appropriate vendors for payment. The eText fee consists of two parts: a portion that pays for the content (Publisher) and a portion that pays for the eReader platform (Courseload). The eText fee, once paid, provides the student access to the content and eReader for as long as they are enrolled at IU.
Is a printed option of an eText available for students?
Yes. IU believes that printing options are an essential element of any viable eText offering. Under the current agreements with publishers, students are allowed to print directly on their own printers (without fee) or obtain a high quality, professionally bound version of the eText shipped directly to them for an additional cost.
How do students access their eTexts?
eTexts available through the IU eText Initiative are accessed via Oncourse. Once a student signs into Oncourse, and accesses the course section using eTexts, they will see a tab for Courseload on the left side of the page. Clicking on this tab will provide students access to their eTexts.
Is assistance available for students or faculty who need help accessing eTexts?
Yes. If a student or faculty member requires adaptive technologies to access eTexts they should contact the Adaptive Technology and Accessibility Center (ATAC) for assistance. Faculty, if you have a student in your class that needs assistance please contact the ATAC for guidance.
Questions about eTexts Models and Use of eText Fees for Specific Courses
What is IU doing?
IU has worked with textbook publishers and other vendors to establish new models of eText delivery that will substantially reduce costs for students. By distributing the eTexts digitally, publishers and sellers can save on the cost of printing, warehousing, and shipping physical textbooks, and that savings is being passed on to students. IU has also engaged in a range of pilot trials that examined other models of eText delivery and assessed student and faculty perceptions of eText offerings.
Which IU campuses are involved in the eText initiative?
The IU eText initiative is for all campuses of Indiana University. The Indianapolis and Bloomington campuses participated in the early pilot studies.
Can faculty assign eTexts now?
Yes. IU has recently signed agreements with five publishers and Courseload to provide eTexts and eReader software to IU. Faculty will be able to assign eTexts under the IU eText fee model for courses starting in Spring 2012.
Faculty may continue to assign eTexts through the IU Bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, CourseSmart, iTunes, and other places in a business-to-consumer sales model. However, these arrangements are not part of the IU eText Fee Model, and will not have the same allowances (printing, lower cost, access while a student is enrolled at IU) that have been negotiated for the students in recently signed agreements.
Why offer the approach of eText fees rather than allowing students to shop on their own?
Publishers will dramatically drop the price of eTexts if each student in a course section is charged a fee, as this ensures publishers are paid by each user of their content. In the textbook market, authors and publishers only get paid when a new book is sold, so they price new books high to cover the 2-3 year period of lower sales that exist between the creation of new editions. The IU eText Fee Model allows IU to negotiate with the publishers/vendors in a business-to-business relationship for favorable prices and terms, just as IU has done for Microsoft and Adobe software on IUWare, which allows IU to use its negotiating power to provide students with eTexts at a lower cost.
What are the cost savings of the eText fee model for a course when compared to the net cost of buying and selling back a textbook?
Not all books are eligible for buyback (when new editions are forthcoming) and not all students succeed in selling (buy-back quotas are reached in bookstores, etc.). In 2009 a study at IU assessed the cost of textbooks in the 20 largest courses on the Bloomington campus. Below are the results of this study that show the net cost to students based on the list price of the book.
- 25%-33% of students who could purchase a used book and sell it back to the bookstore had a net cost of 40% for one semester of use.
- 67%-75% of students who could purchase a used book, but could not sell it back to the bookstore had a net cost of 65% with ongoing access to the book.
- Students who purchased a new book (and either sold or could not sell it back) had a net cost higher than 65%.
During negotiations with publishers, IU focused on providing eTexts to students for a net cost of 35% of list, plus providing the student continuing access to all of his/her eTexts while they are enrolled at IU. IU believes this price can be driven down further as we gain experience with the eText fee model.
Will all courses use the eText fee model?
No. IU is making this option available for faculty to choose beginning in Spring 2012. Faculty may choose the IU eText Fee Model, or choose to continue assigning physical textbooks or eTexts from other sources.
Will students know if a course has an eText fee at the time of enrollment?
Yes. Courses will have a note that points out the use of an eText fee in lieu of buying a traditional textbook. If a department or school adds an eText course after student registration, the school/department will communicate that decision to enrolled students. The eText Fee will appear as an itemized entry on a student's Bursar bill.
What happens if a student drops the course after paying the eText fee?
If a student drops an eText course before the end of the semester drop/add period, they will receive a full refund.
What happens if a student retakes a course after paying the eText fee?
If a student drops an eText course after the semester drop/add period they will maintain access to the eText and will not receive a refund. If a student retakes a course that uses the exact same eText, they will not be charged for the eText, but will have to pay the eReader platform fee for access through Oncourse.
Will a student be charged twice for the same eText?
If a student has paid the eText fee, and takes/retakes a class that uses the same exact eText, they will not be charged for the eText, but will have to pay the eReader platform fee for access through Oncourse.
What if the student normally shares or doesn’t purchase a textbook?
If enrolled in a course using the IU eText Fee Model, students will have to pay the fee, even if they do not want access to the materials or choose to share with another student. Publishers will not offer the substantial discount to everyone if individuals are allowed to opt out.
Do the fees provide additional revenue to IU?
No. Fees collected pay for the costs of licensing and distributing the eTexts from the publishers and vendors. The fees are administratively managed by a central IU account with oversight by the Office of the Vice President for IT & CIO, and contracts for eText content are administered by IU Purchasing.
Will students be required to pay an eTexts fee for every course?
No. Only students who choose a course that has opted into the IU eText Fee Model will have an eText Fee on the Bursar Bill. In order for IU to obtain the deep discount on eTexts, all students enrolled in a specific course section using this model must pay the fee, but they will not need to buy and possibly attempt to resell a textbook.
How long can the student access the eTexts?
Students can access their materials as long as they are enrolled at Indiana University. They can print or pay a small fee for a professionally printed and bound version if they wish to keep a book longer.
What if a student leaves IU for a semester (personal issues, etc) and returns? Will that student still have access to the eTexts?
The policy is still being developed for the Spring 2012 semester, but the goal would be to allow the student access to the eText upon their return to IU.
Are the eTexts available on mobile devices or just my computer?
Materials can be accessed via any device with a web browser, and are downloadable to a number of devices including computers, tablets and smartphones.
If there is an IT services interruption (e.g., Oncourse or the network is offline) are eTexts still accessible?
Yes. Students can work offline on their eTexts, and the eText will re-sync once Oncourse is back online or they reconnect.
When does access to eTexts become available?
Normally, eTexts are available a few weeks before the first day of class.
Will an eText fee have any affect on a student's financial aid?
Steps are currently being taken to ensure that eText fees will not have a negative affect on a student's financial aid.
Questions for Students in the Use of eTexts
Are there benefits for students beyond just cost savings?
Yes. The Courseload eText reader software allows students to highlight and annotate the text with comments. Different highlight colors may denote "For Final Exam," "Homework," or categories named by each student. Students may optionally choose to share their annotations with their study group or the professor -- sometimes referred to as Social Annotation. Faculty can annotate the text and have his/her annotations propagate to all students' eTexts.
Can students print their annotations and notes?
Yes. Students can select various combinations to print the eText with or without notes, or just the notes without the chapter pages.
Can students access their eTexts on different devices?
eTexts available through the IU eText Fee Model can be accessed on any device with a web browser.
Questions for Faculty and Policy Development
Are there any benefits for faculty who use eTexts in their class?
Students who participated in the pilot study during the 2009-10 year reported that they
- Read more assigned material
- Highlighted and annotated text
- Were better prepared for discussions and exams
Faculty can also annotate the eText and have those annotations propagate out to all the students. Students in the pilot study found faculty annotations to be particularly helpful. Faculty and students will likely innovate new approaches that aid effective teaching and learning with these tools.
Can the eText software be turned off, or access denied, during exams?
Efforts will be made to ensure that access to the eText is denied during any exams that utilize computers, laptops, electronic devices, etc.
Will the page numbers on an eText match those in the printed version?
Yes. The eReader software ensures that page numbers on the eText match the printed version.
Will the faculty receive training and support?
Yes, faculty will have access to training and technical support, including up to date information on the Knowledge Base.
How will IU establish policies for eText Fees?
The Office of the Vice President for IT created an eText Policy Taskforce that examined all current, relevant IU policies. The taskforce has provided a written report that outlines all eText related policies and suggested changes to current policies. IU will work through the usual processes for policy development that involve Counsel's Office, Faculty Councils, Student Government Associations, Purchasing, and other appropriate groups.
Do these eText models raise issues under FERPA?
IU did not experience any FERPA issues during the pilots, and we will continue closely monitoring that concern to ensure no FERPA issues arise in the future.
Do faculty have access to data regarding how much a student opens the eText, annotates, highlights, etc.?
Usage data is currently available to faculty involved in the pilots because they are part of an IRB approved study sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Indiana University will make the decision on whether this type of data continues to be accessible, and if so, develop appropriate policy for its use.
Can faculty keep their eTexts annotations for use on future editions?
Faculty are able to export/download their annotations from the eText onto their local computer. However, since new editions can vary significantly, there is not currently a way for faculty to automatically populate a new edition of an eText with their annotations from an older edition.
If faculty choose an eText, are they committed to using an eText in the future?
No. Each semester, faculty will be able to choose whether they would like to teach with an eText.
Where can faculty go to find a list of approved eTexts or whether their textbook is available as an eText?
Faculty can search for eligible eTexts by clicking the faculty eText search link on the homepage of http://etexts.iu.edu.
What if faculty assign two or more required texts, and they are not all available as an eText?
Faculty would be able to utilize the IU eText Fee Model for the available eText. However, the other required texts would need to be obtained by the students via traditional means (Bookstore, online, etc).
Questions for Publishers and Commercial Firms
How are the eText vendors selected?
IU Purchasing delivered a Request for Proposal to various publishers vendors in early February 2011 and finalized agreements with publishers and vendors in September 2011. To participate in the IU eText Fee Model, faculty can select eTexts from the publishers/vendors who have signed a contract with IU.