Last week the publisher McGraw-Hill and the online, nonprofit Western Governors Univeristy announced a “pay-for-performance”
textbook deal with a unique pricing structure. (via EdSurge
In exchange for McGraw-Hill agreeing to provide e-books and other learning tools at discounted flat fee, WGU will pay a “premium” for every student who passes the course using the materials. While McGraw-Hill anticipates making 10-20% less money than normal, as a bonus they will receive anonymous data about how students use their content.
In return for McGraw-Hill agreeing to take on some responsibility for student performance, WGU says it will share intelligence on how students are using the McGraw-Hill content – such as what course modules and e-texts portions students are looking at and how that correlates with student success.
That way McGraw-Hill will “get some insight into what's working and what's not,” said Klingler. If students are glossing over certain content, that might be a cue that it needs to be more engaging, he said. Likewise, if students are engaging heavily with particular modules and e-textbook chapters and yet are not doing well on exams, that might be a cue that the educational quality of the content needs improving, he added.
In addition to the benefits of providing quantitative data and keeping costs lower for students, this kind of partnership increases accountability for publishers to create the highest quality learning materials. It will be interesting to see if this is really a “landmark” agreement as more innovative e-texbook deals roll out in the near future.
Also, it's worth mentioning Western Governors University's
unique model for offering online bachelor's and master's degrees.
WGU's unusual, “competency-based” model of delivering education makes it well-suited as a proving ground for publisher content. The university does not have traditional class sessions or professors; students work through the licensed content at their own pace, with only occasional intervention from “coaches.” This eliminates the skill and style of individual instructors as a confounding variable in assessing the effectiveness of the publisher's e-texts and adaptive tutoring software, Klingler said. Within each program, “all WGU students are consuming the same material and taking the same assessments,” he said.