ED MAP: Insights Blog

Ed Map’s Predictions for 2018: The Changing Landscape of Course Materials
By Mark Christensen

New Year 2018

The new year is off to a great start!

2018 is poised to bring new ways to connect students to the learning experience. From a multiverse of course material options like eTextbooks or freely available Open Educational Resources (OER), there are many possibilities on the horizon for institutions. The opportunity to provide learner-centered, affordable, and up-to-date content is right in line with how we see the upcoming year shaping up. It’s an exciting time!

Here at Ed Map, we tapped into our expertise and looked into our crystal ball to put together our list of predictions for 2018. Check out what we think below. As you’ll see, the landscape of course materials is changing this year!







A Year of Balance
The preceding years have been about bold predictions like “all course materials will be digital by 201X” and “OER will completely replace traditional textbooks by 202X” and “big publishers will be out of business by 201X” and so on. Many institutions have been involved in periods of experimentation and piloting solutions that are in line with these predictions but haven’t gone all the way in reaching them. I predict that 2018 will be a year of balancing the course materials equation. Stakeholders in higher education (students, faculty, institutions, and the companies that serve them) will begin to figure out the right mix of course materials is from a variety of sources and in a variety of formats. In the end, course materials, like education itself, are not “one-size fits all.” Just as we need courses that teach a specific skill as much as we need courses that teach critical thinking and productive discourse and conflict, we need course materials that are sometimes digital, sometimes adaptive, and sometimes supplements to a great lecture by a great teacher. As a result of this, I predict that in 2018 we will see a proliferation of new business models and an emergence of new constructs to manage the diversity in course materials selection and use.

– Kerry Pigman, President and COO








Accelerate the Shift to Affordable Content
The cost of higher education has spiraled out-of-control, and further schooling is now out of reach for too many. The price of higher education, coupled with our internet-connected society, will continue to press higher-ed to move away from traditional textbooks toward lower-cost digital materials, including Open Educational Resources (OER). These materials are customizable, engaging, current and relevant, and are available at much lower costs to students.  I predict that in 2018, colleges and universities will accelerate their shift into this more affordable content and meet the students where they increasingly are: online, all the time.

– Heidi Wilhelm, CURATE Manager








Traditional Higher Education Will Fill the Void
For many years traditional, regional higher education lambasted what was then known as career colleges. With politics being what they are and with a shrinking industry, traditional higher education can now step into many of the roles that were taken by the career schools. The larger online programs of traditional higher education look more and more like the earliest models of career education, i.e., University of Phoenix. Now that those career schools have lost their premier position, and traditional higher education can move into that void, those not for profit schools will start to behave like the career schools. Soon traditional higher education will buy and sell other schools, have high default rates on loans, and will be viewed in the same negative light as career schools have come to be known.  I think 2018 will begin the “crackdown” on traditional higher education.

– Dr. Michael Mark, Chief Executive Officer








Federal Funding Will Be in the Mix
I predict that 2018 will continue to draw a trend line towards viable alternatives to the traditional higher education model. Federal funding for non-traditional programs is on the horizon as the cost of a 4-year degree continues to skyrocket. There will be a hyper-focus on student recruitment, engagement, and retention – meaning that low-cost access to highly effective course materials will be part of an overall strategy for managing student success. Institutions who fail to put students first may find themselves left behind.

– Nikole Morris, Solutions Architect








Supply Will Meet Demand
I believe we have hit the tipping point for the “traditional college bookstore.” The archetypal university bookstore worked well when we needed an efficient supply chain to distribute quality knowledge (edited, peer-reviewed textbooks) to students. The days when students had to buy at one or two stores using financial aid are over. That captive market resulted in inflated prices and contributed to the student loan crisis. 2018 will be the year when the supply of digital content (through the open web and the OER revolution) will meet the demand of faculty to use engaging content for 21st-century students (who just “Google it” when they want to find out something). There will always be room for polished publisher content (competition is good for any market, and seminal texts will especially always have a place). There will be even more room for the emerging platforms that can serve up content in remarkable ways to impact learning. But just as the printing press revolutionized the spread of knowledge, higher-ed realizes that digital content and the web is doing that (has already done that) again. Faculty, schools, and the companies that serve them will innovate to find better ways to discover, share, assess, and catalog that digital content. The university bookstores that remain will focus on spirit wear as the days of reaping massive profits from textbooks dwindle.

– Sarah Riddlebarger, Vice President Product and Strategy


Dr. Mark Christensen






Students Are on the Go
The traditional publishing industry will continue to be disrupted in 2018. Today’s students are digital natives, and they live on their devices. The demand for instant access to course materials with adaptive technology to support personalized learning styles will be the expectation of students in the coming new year. I predict an increase in digital course materials at institutions to meet this demand. It makes sense, offering a modern approach to the learning experience and meeting students where they are. Both are far more relevant than the old textbook paradigm.

– Mark Christensen, Director of Marketing








New Business Models Take Shape
2018 will likely bring legislative changes to our industry. Making higher education affordable will be ever so important. Publishers will continue to experiment with new business models, and the industry will likely present variations of OER and traditional course content solutions. There’s still a lot to do, and we yet need to see a bold new business model that truly helps students succeed.

– Eszti Major-Rohrer, Director of Products








More Flexible Solutions for Institutions
With enrollments shrinking across the board, it will be vital in 2018 for institutions to optimize their efforts. Coupled with the refrain of high material costs, the impact in the course materials arena will be doubly felt. As such, it will be vital for institutions to use a variety of solutions that can keep costs low while delivering a wide array of course content. Traditional course content business models do not easily support these needs, which is why we will likely continue to see publishers and other content providers establishing new offerings for course content (OER expansions; content subscription models; etc.). However, those items tend to only address the symptom, not the underlying issue. I’m hopeful that more institutions will realize this in 2018 and begin to shift towards more flexible solutions for their faculty, administrators, and most importantly, students.

– Josh Thompson, Director Solutions & Knowledge Management








Affordable Subscription Options Emerge
In 2018, alternatives to traditional course materials providers will continue to proliferate, further reducing the costs of content. In the face of lower-priced competition, new models such as the affordable subscription options recently announced by Cengage and Knewton are harbingers of relief. I predict that in 2018, the market relevance of the cost+ business model for textbooks will continue to diminish as new options and choices emerge.

– Shannon Meadows, Strategic Adviser








Measure the Effectiveness of Content
The landscape of course materials is always changing. I predict that 2018 will likely be the year of mobile learning. Technology is critical today and will be tomorrow when it comes to content engagement. There is value to connecting content curation and analytics that will allow for measuring the effectiveness of content.  Educations will find that analytics (for digital content) can be just as valuable as instruction in higher education. OER is adaptable and flexible and will likely storm campuses/institutions throughout the year. The industry will ease faculty concerns of quality learning with updated material and added expertise in curating content.

– Sally Blake, Client Success Team Lead








Access to Data and Collaboration
Traditional higher educational institutions will continue to slowly adapt to the changing needs of learners. Given the disruption created by immediate, mobile access to data, communication, and collaboration, students now expect to be able to access classes, text and other related media whenever they want and wherever they are. And, technology, particularly automation, is increasingly changing the job market to favor those that are willing to update their skillsets on a regular basis throughout their careers. The traditional higher education model (geographic colocation of students studying traditional content for a set period) will continue to be challenged on cost and effectiveness given these rapid changes in the market.

– Tracy Kitts, Solutions Architect


Mark Christensen

Mark Christensen
Senior Director of Marketing

Mark Christensen has worked in K–12 and higher education in various roles throughout his career from teacher to administrator to ed-tech marketing communications. He currently works with Ed Map, helping institutions navigate today’s dynamic and changing content landscape. He holds his MBA in Marketing from Rivier University and his Ed.D. in Curriculum & Technology from Plymouth State University/Argosy.

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