As the December 1 deadline approaches for ordering Engage eTexts and digital learning tools for spring semester classes, what do instructors have to say about their experiences with Engage?
Though Pam Doolittle’s expertise is in chemistry, her decision to use Engage eText for her Fundamentals of Analytical Science courses really came down to simple economics:
The Harris textbook she uses for CHEM 327 and 329 is an excellent, comprehensive handbook for making chemical measurements, Doolittle says. But the print version of the textbook—which clocks in at nearly 1,000 pages—costs around $300.
By using the Engage eText version, Doolittle’s students pay only $60.
And course by course, across the university, these cost savings for students keep adding up.
$3.5 Million Savings to Students, and Counting
All totaled, UW–Madison students have saved an estimated $3.5 million since the Engage pilot launched in spring 2018. Part of the Learn@UW suite of learning technologies, Engage provides integrated access to publisher eTexts via Canvas, as well as access to other publisher-provided tools and resources—typically at a 40-80% discount compared to the print cost for traditional textbooks.
For Doolittle’s students, the eText advantage isn’t only about cost savings. Each semester, Doolittle forms a Student Board of Directors for her courses, meeting weekly with representatives from each class section to check on how things are going. When asked whether they and their classmates wanted to continue using Engage eText in the spring, student board members were unanimous in their assessment.
“Everybody said they would much rather have the eText, for a variety of reasons—cost savings, the ability to access it wherever they are without having to lug a 10-pound textbook everywhere…,” Doolittle explains, noting that none of her students this semester took advantage of the opportunity to buy a discounted loose-leaf printed copy of the textbook along with the eText version.
Another Engage advantage often shared by students is the environmental benefit of not printing hundreds of textbook pages on paper, notes the School of Human Ecology’s Patricia Sigler, who uses Engage eText for her Consumer Science courses in Consumer Behavior and Consumer Insights (CNSR SCI 657 and 201).
“Students appreciate the cost savings for sure, and the ease of being able to have their material online,” says Sigler, who has also participated in the Engage program since the 2018 pilot. “They live in an online world, and so it just coincides and aligns with their behavior more broadly.”
Delivering the Experience Students Expect
Similarly, Doolittle notes that making use of digital course materials like Engage has simply become “a reality of the time.”
Doolittle points to the former REACH initiative, launched in 2015 with the goal to make large lecture courses across the university more interactive. A parallel goal for the Department of Chemistry, Doolittle explained, was to more fully develop the lab side of classes, making better use of Canvas as a “hub” for the course.
Having the eText integrated in Canvas only helped advance this overall project plan for Chemistry, Doolittle says.
“I’ve been in this job for 20 years, and so I have watched the evolution of using the web as a way to deliver content for teaching,” Doolittle explains. “Being able to organize content for students in a central location, in a course website… it’s required. It’s an expectation at this point that we deliver that sort of experience.”
For Wisconsin School of Business lecturer David Pelletier, using Engage eText for his Business Law course (GEN BUS 301) offers an advantage that can be particularly important when studying law: If students have the digital course materials readily available in Canvas, they’re not as likely to Google topics and land on potentially untrustworthy sources of information, Pelletier notes.
“To be able to quickly search for something (in the eText) they have a question about, that’s a big benefit, when we know it’s quality information they’re searching,” Pelletier says. “I know they’re not just pulling something from Wikipedia.”
The Ordering Process: Instructor Impressions
What’s the Engage ordering process like from an instructor’s point of view? Instructors have varying opinions about the ease of Engage ordering and subsequent setup in Canvas.
For Sigler’s part, she’d like to see a more streamlined, simplified ordering process—though she notes that she appreciates the Engage program and the helpfulness of support. (Support for the Engage eText reader is provided by the DoIT Help Desk; support for Digital Learning Tools is provided directly by the publisher.)
Doolittle’s assessment: “It’s pretty easy to navigate, in the sense that you agree to use the eText, it populates to your Canvas page, and you tell the students about that in the course syllabus.”
(Learn more about the Engage ordering process in the Engage Overview KnowledgeBase article.)
One note of caution: While the cost savings to students is often significant, Doolittle advises instructors to maximize that benefit by paying attention to prices as they renew their digital course materials. Publishers may change costs from semester to semester, Doolittle notes, and instructors aren’t necessarily notified of these pricing changes.
“We have to really have eyes on what the book will cost the students every semester,” Doolittle advises.
Pelletier describes the Engage integration with Canvas as “seamless.” And when he does encounter issues, Pelletier says, the publishers of the eTexts he has used are eager to figure things out.
“It’s been great,” Pelletier says in summarizing his Engage eText experience. “I don’t hear any complaints from students, and at this point, they’re also demanding this kind of digital access.”
Ordering Window Ends December 1: How to Get Started
During the designated ordering period for the spring 2022 semester (October 5-December 1, 2021), instructors can order eTexts, Digital Learning Tools (DLTs) and other content through the Engage Order Tool.
To get started:
- First, take a look at the Engage Overview KnowledgeBase article, which includes information about the ordering process.
- Check out the frequently asked questions, which covers common questions for both instructors and students.
- Faculty are reminded of their obligation to ensure that an e-text and any digital tools acquired with the e-text are accessible for all students, including those with disabilities. Faculty can review the Engage – Accessibility & Usability Information KB for more information. Contact Maria Dahman (firstname.lastname@example.org) from the Center for User Experience if you have questions.