Cindy Ruckman 2015-09-10 11:10:59
CHART A ROUTE FORWARD FOR YOUR COURSE MATERIALS OPERATIONS, ONE STEP AT A TIME, WITH THE HELP OF A NEW NACS RESEARCH REPORT AND RESOURCES. If you've already viewed the report Mapping the Learning Content Ecosystem, one word probably came to mind when you first saw its website: overwhelming. The online report at www.nacs.org/ecosystem covers a lot of territory. That was the intent when the NACS Foundation committed $100,000 toward the report’s research and development. The idea was to thoroughly explore the current status of higher-education course materials and academic content and draw some conclusions about what the future may hold for campus bookstores. “May” is the crucial word. Like student fashion trends, the business of course materials has been in a state of flux. That’s not likely to change. Who could have foreseen the rocketing rise of textbook rentals? Many people thought digital was going to overtake print—10 years ago. Open educational resources (OER) and content licensing could both be game-changers, or not. Affordability is a constant concern. In the shifting sand of this course-content landscape, all of the stakeholders involved in developing and delivering learning materials are trying to gain a toehold. Like it or not, it’s a group effort. As each one slogs ahead to meet a new challenge, the rest have to change direction as well. In the end, though, it’s all about serving students in the most effective way possible. Your store can begin plotting a plan of action, using Mapping the Learning Content Ecosystem as a guide and resource. GETTING STARTED Admittedly, it’s a daunting prospect to read the entire 132-page Mapping white paper right off the bat. If you’re fairly new to course materials operations, you should look at the complete report—sooner rather than later—to gain a full understanding of how all the stakeholders fit together and the challenges and opportunities they face. However, most collegiate retailers with at least a couple fall rushes under their belts can take a shortcut. “Start with the executive summary,” advises Tony Ellis, vice president, industry advancement, NACS. Ellis worked closely with the research/writing team of Richard N. Katz and Ronald W. Yanosky to produce the report and its resource materials. The executive summary, which is located on the web tab labeled White Paper and Related Reports, is provided in a PDF format that can be easily downloaded or printed. The summary opens with a quick outline of the research project and then provides several skimmable lists to aid your planning: • Seven areas that college stores should monitor. • Seven vectors of change affecting the ecosystem in the next three to five years. • Five potential scenarios to guide college store planning. • Three overarching philosophical approaches to the store’s future role. • Nine specific actions for stores to think about while building a tactical plan. You can also access these five lists individually by scrolling down to the Conclusions section. The full white paper goes into greater detail for each list. INVOLVE OTHER STAFF Course materials managers don’t have to go it alone. “Perhaps have select store staff read the summary, too,” Ellis recommends. “Have a group discussion about the implications for the store.” Now’s the perfect time of year for that exercise. Rush has just ended (or will soon for quarter schools) and the latest sales data and student consumer behavior should be fresh in your mind. Deadlines for book returns and second term adoptions are still weeks away, so take advantage of the moment. At the very least, Ellis suggests, you should review the nine actions to consider for your tactical plan. “Discuss with your staff which of the ‘Do This’ imperatives should be first on the store’s list to tackle,” he says. TAKE A DEEPER PLUNGE If you want to take the staff discussion even further, ask the participating employees to read the Key Points sections accompanying each of the seven ecosystem segments: • Colleges and universities • Learning content creators (faculty, publishers, and third-party experts) • Learning content manufacturing (primarily publishers) • Academic content distribution, wholesaling, and aggregation • Learning content retailers • Learning content consumers (faculty and students) • Learning and success services “Have them discuss their reactions to the points and how they think the store can respond to what they’ve read,” Ellis says. Another method is to ask participants to jot down their reactions on a whiteboard or butcher paper taped to the wall. This can be done with smaller groups or by pairing up participants, then the entire group can reconvene to talk about the reactions. To help encourage more discussion and analysis, a scorecard and a list of critical questions can be found on the Learn More tab under each ecosystem. CHOOSE YOUR ECOSYSTEMS Seven ecosystems may be too many to review, absorb, and discuss in one group meeting. Ellis recommends concentrating on two areas to begin with. First, identify the ecosystems where the store currently has an active program or pilot. “Do you have a publisher partnership on digital? Are you partnering with the library on something?” asks Ellis. “Read those sections to better understand things from that perspective.” That will help your store size up whether the partnership could work more successfully with a few tweaks. The next step is to take a look at those ecosystems where the store needs to build relationships or launch a partnership, possibly with faculty, for instance. “Read those sections to get the lay of the land and ideas on how to start the conversation,” Ellis says. STANDING STILL IS NOT AN OPTION It’s all right to take your time in strategizing for the future of your store and its course materials operations. There are still some unanswered questions about the coming years and more unanticipated changes are probably just over the horizon. Move slowly and carefully in your planning if needed. Just make sure you keep moving forward. [sidebar] Sound Out Colleagues, Explore Education Sessions Even though there’s something of a shortcut through Mapping the Learning Content Ecosystem available, you may still feel overwhelmed by the report and how to apply its findings to your college store. Other course materials managers are feeling the same way. The remedy is to get out of the textbook stacks and talk with managers at other stores about what they’re doing. Stay away from discussion of pricing so you don’t run afoul of antitrust regulations, but operational matters and strategic partnerships are fair topics to explore. Whatever pain points you’re experiencing, there’s sure to be another store facing the same. Good places to meet up with other course materials professionals are the fall state and regional college store association meetings. A number of these meetings will feature a presentation on Exploring the Future Course Content Ecosystem on Campus, underwritten by the NACS Foundation, to help stores better understand the report. The session will include group discussion and hands-on planning strategies. Another Foundation-sponsored session will also make the rounds at some fall meetings. Moving Beyond the College Store of 2015: Reflecting on Imperatives for Today and Tomorrow will include discussion about course materials challenges and trends in the next five years. If your state/regional association isn’t offering either of these sessions or you can’t make it to the meeting, the NACS Foundation will be hosting two free webinar versions of the presentations on Dec. 1 (Exploring the Future of Course Content Ecosystems on Campus) and Dec. 8 (Moving Beyond the College Store of 2015). Registration details will be available online soon. CAMEX 2016 on March 4-8 will provide another opportunity for course-materials professionals to share ideas for putting Mapping the Learning Content Ecosystem recommendations into action. Be sure to check the schedule for related educational programming. Cindy Ruckman is director of publications at NACS.
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