XanEdu Q&A: The Evolution of Digital Publishing in Higher Education

XanEdu, a division of ProQuest Information and Learning Co., is a custom content provider that helps the higher education community integrate real-world information and resources into the classroom. The company publishes both online and offline course materials, primarily in the form of digital and print CoursePacks for student use. XanEdu has also amassed one of the largest commercial and scholarly archives of journals, periodicals, newspapers, books, primary literature works and academic collections. XanEdu's CoursePacks, Digital TextBooks, ReSearch Engines, and other print and digital resources are currently in use by more than 1,300 institutions. In addition, XanEdu recently acquired MetaText, a publisher of Digital TextBooks, and Courier Custom Publishing Inc., a provider of full-service book manufacturing, specialty book publishing and customized coursepack services. XanEdu's top management answered T.H.E. Journal's questions about the evolution of digital publishing in higher education.

T.H.E.: What is the importance of custom materials for schools and educators?

XanEdu: Custom materials can give educators enhanced control, flexibility and the power to align resources with the scope and sequence of the curriculum. There are other advantages as well, because faculty members can build multiple perspectives into custom course materials, as well as maintain higher levels of currency and authenticity. For example, faculty members using CoursePacks often add a related XanEdu ReSearch Engine module, giving students access to new information that is updated daily. For colleges and universities, all of this translates to even higher levels of quality instruction and resources, as well as the intelligent integration of technology.

While custom course materials are preferred, many faculty members still don't use them. The reality of finding the right materials, arranging for copyright clearance, and compiling the final coursepack can be time-consuming and inconvenient for faculty. XanEdu has simplified this process, helping faculty provide comprehensive, up-to-date course materials in digital, print or a combination of print and digital formats. With the XanEdu solution, instructors can select from a continually expanding archive, providing unprecedented and free access to selections from journals, cases, newspapers, chapters and other academic sources that have all been copyright cleared. The XanEdu CoursePack system can also incorporate faculty notes, teaching tips and Web links, along with faculty proprietary information, all in a user-friendly format.

While colleges and universities are issuing policy statements that call for rapid integration of information technology to support teaching and learning, mainstream faculty members are, quite reasonably, finding the conversion to be challenging. In many cases, the "hybrid" solution — one that integrates both print and digital resources — is the preference, because it enables faculty members to introduce digital resources in a way that aligns with both their curriculum and their own growing levels of technological skill. By offering faculty tools, comprehensive services and a vast repository of quality content, publishers and service providers can help faculty integrate technology into the classroom without undue difficulty.

T.H.E.: What is the biggest benefit to students?

XanEdu: Students benefit in several ways. Most important is the quality, depth and breadth of course-aligned resources that are now available to enrich and extend students' class and research experiences. Many instructors are particularly excited about CoursePacks, because they offer faculty the opportunity to select diverse perspectives not usually available in textbooks. As a result of reading multiple viewpoints, students learn to evaluate information and gain experience with critical thinking — a primary goal of education. Currency of information is another attribute that motivates students and enhances learning. With XanEdu CoursePacks, faculty can select material that has been published up to the day that the CoursePack has been completed. Then, by adding a ReSearch Engine module related to the course's content, faculty can provide students access to articles published throughout the term for course readings and research projects. This brings a real-world, real-time perspective to the course. It's also important to underscore the affordability custom publishing offers students, with $33 being the average cost for a XanEdu print or digital CoursePack.

T.H.E.: What are some examples of areas where custom materials have helped schools?

XanEdu: In both graduate and undergraduate business schools, custom materials are contributing to the relevance and genuine excitement that come from real-world cases and examples. Providing the largest online vetted business archive, including cases from top business schools, along with a premier collection of current business and scholarly course materials, faculty can select cases and articles from journals, periodicals and newspapers. They can also select book chapters from the XanEdu databases. In the event that the company d'es not have content an educator wants, XanEdu can clear the copyright, scan the materials and include them in the educator's CoursePack.

XanEdu's ReSearch Engines provide added informa-tional power for business students as well, because instructors include a business module of our MBA ReSearch Engine in many business CoursePacks. Students can then track daily changes in the issues and companies covered in their cases. This depth and currency makes coursework more compelling for both teachers and students. What's more, access to this kind of information gives smaller and more geographically remote colleges and universities access to resources that rival those of the top-tier institutions.

T.H.E.: How d'es the MetaText acquisition round out XanEdu's digital course materials?

XanEdu: MetaText was formed as a digital textbook publisher, and instructors have quickly seen the possibilities and potential in "customizable" digital textbooks. But, a digital version of a traditional textbook is just the first step. As we investigate the needs of instructors, we will move more aggressively to working with publishers. This will allow us to provide the individual chapters, combined with additional content from XanEdu. The acquisition also extends our ability to answer a more complete range of educators' resource needs. It is important to note that our digital textbooks extend far beyond the concept of a typical e-book. XanEdu Digital TextBooks allow instructors to add notes at the paragraph level and let students view and highlight sections for themselves. Plus, students can add their own online notes at the paragraph level, digitally highlight the text, conduct a full-text search by a word or concept, and, most importantly, use any computer with an Internet connection to access the textbooks.

T.H.E.: What do you see for the future of digital custom publishing?

XanEdu: Not that long ago, digital publishing was all about using wires to deliver and distribute content that was fundamentally created for a print format. Now, we're developing tools that allow educators and students to find and develop packets of content that can directly support and energize instruction; and do so with more authenticity and currency than before. As tools become more sophisticated and easier to use, the opportunity exists to customize instruction to an even more refined level.

We also see digital custom publishing opening new avenues for cross-disciplinary collaboration and research. We need to keep our eyes open to resources that are now being created in newer digital formats exclusively. Of course, the scholarship and quality of these resources demand rigorous review. But, as the academic community integrates these newer forms of published works into their review processes, the tools, distribution systems and procedures now in place through digital custom publishing can open remarkable access.

Contact Information
Ann Arbor, MI
(800) 218-5971

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.