Working Together Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne Navigates a Digital Future

Finger touching digital tablet

Access and affordability are two factors that have a strong impact on both teaching and learning experiences. On the negative side, students often cannot afford all of the course materials, and when they don’t have access they cannot come to class prepared. As the digital transformation of the education industry continues, higher education institutions are finding new ways to improve faculty and student success. One such institution is Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). Samantha Birk, Associate Director for Instructional Technology at IPFW has been instrumental in coordinating with groups across campus to implement technologies that give students and faculty easy access to affordable digital course materials. As she prepares to participate in an upcoming webinar panel discussion, Improving Access and Affordability with Innovative Digital Models, we got a chance to chat with her about their new digital transformation, which includes the Follett includED® program. This is the first in a three-part series examining this topic.

Q. What was the impetus behind the includED program?

Samantha: In 2011, IPFW started to look at mobile computing and how it could be used to transform teaching, learning, research, and service to the institution. The faculty were curious about the use of digital textbooks which, at that point, were starting to get more usage on campus.

At the same time our bookstore also started to look into how to vendor the deployment of digital course materials. We have had a long partnership with the College Board group and because of our efforts with mobile technology they asked if we could partner with them to look at how to institutionally deploy digital course materials.

The board came forward with the idea of includED, which is a fee and tuition model. In Summer of 2012, we piloted the includED program.

Q. How did the pilot go?

Samantha: The pilot went from four classes in summer 2012 to 106 courses that first fall semester that we implemented includED. Now we have a little more than 200 sections. So within a two and a half year period the growth has been just phenomenal.

Currently it is an opt-in program, so faculty or departments have the option to join the program or bow out if they no longer want to be part of it. As an opt-in program, it continues to grow.

Q. You say that one of the reasons this initiative started was that faculty was interested in digital textbooks. Were there other reasons that the faculty were interested?

Samantha: Yes, affordability. That’s a key piece to this. Although we track cost, I think the larger issue we really pay attention to is the ease of access and helping students and faculty easily get into their course materials and how they are tackling learning.

The conversation of student success at the freshman level and the cost of the materials, have come together to create this environment where it made it easy for IPFW to start looking at and moving into ebooks.

Q. How does the opt-in model work at IPFW?

Samantha: First, faculty notify the bookstore about their decision to opt into the program and provide the required course materials for that course. Then that information is sent over to the Bursar and the Registrar’s Office. Our Registrar’s Office then goes into our student information system to tag what sections and what students are enrolled in those sections in order to assess the fees.

We coordinate with our information technology support group to integrate the digital course materials into our learning management system. They pre-populate those students into the MyLab sections and we ensure that all students have the materials to begin learning quickly.

Q. What has led to the success of includED at IPFW?

Samantha: We architect a workflow that parallels what faculty do with traditional course materials and textbooks – so that we aren’t necessarily implementing or presenting to them something that is completely new.

Also, our help desk support has been able to assist in the creation of a soft place for the faculty and students to land if they have accessibility problems. If somebody is having a technical problem — the longer that those linger, there is a greater chance that they’re going to leave the program.

Lastly, a key part to our success is having good lines of communication. I hold a yearly debrief meeting with our stakeholders, to talk about what works, what didn’t work, what do we need to change, and what issues are coming up. This is a method of a new working model, so you can’t predict exactly what’s going to happen. We all have to work together.


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

Read more about IPFW’s program and success.

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.