Titan Direct Access pilot program opens digital door

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Students in courses that are a part of a pilot program can access their course materials online for free for the first two weeks of class.

With Titan Direct Access, launched by the Titan Shops and the Cal State Fullerton Information Technology (IT) department, students will have access to free class materials until Feb. 6, at which point, they will have to purchase them.  Digital content is accessible through TITANium and the “My Courses” menu.

“It can impact (a student’s) success in the classroom if they don’t have the necessary materials,” said Titan Shops director Kimberly Ball. “On the faculty member side, they can start teaching that first day. They don’t have to make that assumption that students don’t have their materials.”

For the spring 2017 semester, the program includes about 150 titles from the book publisher Pearson that apply to over 400 CSUF courses and about 14,000 students. In the future, publishers like Cengage and McGraw-Hill are also in discussion to be a part of the program.

“Usually, pilots are tiny, but with this one, it’s like we’re just going to go in with as much as we can,” Ball said. “We could’ve added more titles if we had more time to work through lists and get permissions with the publishers, but we pretty much launched it in under 60 days.”

Ball said books purchased through Titan Direct Access can reach discounts as high as 60 percent of the retail price of a new print copy.

“Affordability is the big piece for students,” Ball said. “Students have to make choices in where their budget dollars are spent and sometimes eating is more important than buying course materials.”

Unlike renting books, Titan Direct Access will also give students indefinite access to whatever books they use as a part of the program.

“The prices are very close to rental pricing in this digital program but they get to keep it. So I think that is going to be an appealing aspect to students,” Ball said.

Although Ball said programs similar to Titan Direct Access already exist, such as Immediate Access at San Diego State University and Inclusive Access at UC Davis, CSUF’s program will be “unique” in that students have to opt in to take part.

“With them, unless you tell them you don’t want to be in it, you’re going to get a charge for that content,” Ball said. “On our end, you have to tell us you want to be in it, then we’ll charge you for the content.”

With the opt-in nature of the program and the lower cost of digital distribution, Ball said she expects the bookstore’s profits to take a hit.

“From a sales number standpoint, yes, that does affect the store. But at the end of the day, our goal is to be able to deliver the lowest possible price for students,” Ball said. “So if that’s what it is, then we’re okay with that.”

A large component of Titan Direct Access is its emphasis on mobility since students will be able to access their digital books wherever they have Wi-Fi, Ball said.

“You probably carry your phone or your iPad or your tablets more than you carry a book, so we want to have students be able to read the text materials anywhere they can,” said Willie Peng, interim assistant vice president for IT.

Part of the pilot is building name recognition for Titan Direct Access, Peng said.

Surveys will be taken afterwards to gauge user responses on what can be done to improve the program in the future and to compile frequently asked questions.

“Like every other program, when you first release it, you’re trying to see how to target the audience, how to make the proper wording so the audience can (recognize it),” Peng said.

Plans for the future of the program include the ability to print inexpensive, black-and-white versions of the books through the program for those who prefer physical copies. However, regardless of the pilot’s success, Titan Shops will continue to offer both physical and digital copies of textbooks for students to purchase.

“There are still students, regardless of their comfort level with digital, that just learn and absorb material better in a print environment,” Ball said. “At the end of the day, it’s just an option for students. They don’t have to do it that way if they don’t want to.”

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