Charting a Digital Future: Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne Engages Students

Finger touching digital tablet

In this third part of a three-part series, we continue our conversation with Samantha Birk, Associate Director for Instructional Technology at Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). Samantha has been instrumental in coordinating not only faculty, but also students to implement technologies that give them easy access to affordable digital course materials, which includes the Follett includED® program.

In the first blog post Samantha discussed the overall implementation of their opt-in-based interoperability program. In the second blog post, she focused more on how faculty helped drive acceptance across campus in different departments. Now we plan to focus upon how students were impacted.


Q. Let’s talk about the students, the cost of course materials is set in students’ course fee. How was this first received by students?

Samantha: There’s always going to be a small number of students who speak out against the program, and we continue to encounter this feedback. Its tough to make everybody happy. But, even when we first implemented the includED program, we did not get a lot of pushback from the students. We heard from some students that they felt they could get their materials cheaper if they purchased them from an outside source, and we take that into consideration as we continue to develop the program.

Q. Currently, what is the student climate on this direct access model (IncludED)?

Samantha: We’ve had several informal discussions in classes, and overall, the greater percentage of the students either really like or they’re fine with the program. There’s a small number of students that question it, and don’t particularly care for the program or don’t like reading eBooks, and that is understandable.  Digital books are still very new in comparison to what most of us a familiar with–physical, print books.

To that point, with any Pearson adaption at this juncture, students can go to the bookstore as long as the course is part of the includED program, and pick up a customized version of the textbook that’s specific to IPFW. The nice thing with this part of the program is that if a student is not really comfortable with an ebook, they can use these print versions in tandem with the the digital product. These custom books have also been important for a  number of other reasons, such helping with ADA compliance and other accessibility issues.

Q. Do students see the benefits of having their course materials on the includED program?

Samantha: I was talking with one of our students, and she’s only known includED. She said, “Even though I like paper and prefer to read from a book, I like this program because I don’t have to worry if my financial aid has gotten hung up, and I can’t go get the book because I don’t have my financial aid money. I have access to them on the first day of class, and I’m fine with that.”

More and more students in K-12 are using laptops or iPads and many of those schools have moved to digital books. Those students are beginning to show up in our freshmen and sophomore classes. I think, in the next couple of years, we’re going to see a turning of the corner as students start to filter into our doors who have only known digital.

Q. How do you communicate the program to the students?

Samantha: Because this is a faculty opt-in program, we have given that responsibility in many ways, to those faculty to inform their students. We provide some basic language that faculty can include in their syllabus about program and some talking points they can use on the first day of class.

As an institution, there hasn’t been necessarily a marketing effort to the students because this is truly a faculty driven program.  Admittedly, there are some areas that need to be refined in terms of helping our faculty in the program better communicate those to the students, but we see this as an ongoing task and part of how we support our faculty using this program.

I often wonder how other schools are handling, communicating, what’s happening with the students and, how is that helping to shape or influence programs that they’re putting in place.

Q. How do you foresee this model in the next two to three years at IPFW? Do you see 100 percent of courses using includED?

Samantha: I don’t think we’re going to get to 100 percent. I did some data analysis of our adoptions in the Fall. Our 100 level courses are pretty saturated, and are using adaptive learning materials like the MyLabs. The second highest level of saturation is the 200 level. When you get to the upper level courses though, we’ve seen a little bit of growth, but it’s been much slower.

The model itself at least for the foreseeable future is fairly established. What I think is going to be really interesting, as some of these ebook platforms start to mature, is the opportunity for faculty to start integrating some of their own materials into these products. The goal will be to not have it look like here is the publisher’s stuff and here’s my stuff, but to see a more unified relationship between them.

I also think analytics is quickly becoming more important at all levels — the course, academic program, and institutional. The ability of these systems to generate data is robust. Faculty, program coordinators, the chair, the dean, are able to see how students use these materials, where they access them, how long they spend in them, and how many times they redo a practice quiz or assignment.

I think, where we go from here, is going to be driven by how some of these ereading and adaptive material technologies mature, as well as helping faculty to effectively leverage the tools that are becoming available in these products to help shape teaching learning. Most of the eBook readers have the ability for instructors to see how their students are reading. That’s powerful information that faculty have never had access to before, with print books.

If you think about it, you don’t know exactly how your students read the book, or if they read the book, but these tools put that data into their hands. So, I think it’s going to be interesting to see what comes out of that area as well.


Read more about IPFW’s program and success.

Read the first portion of this three-part interview with Samantha Birk.

Read the second portion of this three-part interview with Samantha Birk.

To to learn more about innovative digital models, visit our transition to digital information page.


About Samantha Birk
Samantha Birk

Samantha Birk

Samantha Birk holds a Bachelors of Arts from the University of Northern Colorado and a Masters of Fine Art from Ohio University. She is currently the Associate Director for Instructional Technologies with the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching at Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne. Her current areas of interest include mobile computing and digital course materials, and the opportunities they present to increase student engagement and foster critical thinking.