Colorado Community College System Announces Flat-price Electronic Textbooks from Pearson Education

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Colorado Community College System (CCCS) signed an agreement with Pearson Education for flat-rate access to Pearson textbook content online. News of this comes by way of a link left by Lorcan Dempsey in a comment to an earlier DLTJ entry that pointed to a blog entry by Michael Cairns talking about yesterday's Wall Street Journal article about custom textbooks, which in turn pointed to a blog posting by Alison Pendergast excerpting a Chronicle of Higher Education Wired Campus story about this agreement. (Whew! It was a long trail, but well worth it!) Key points in the agreement:

  • The cost to students is $49/course and it "will appear when they are assessed tuition."  A black/white paper version will be available from the bookstore for $50.
  • "At the end of the 2008-09 academic year, 17 courses will be part of this partnership....  CCCOnline will continue converting courses...with the goal of having a majority of their enrollments benefiting from the agreement by Spring 2011."
  • There is some sort of "edition control" in the agreement that will allow CCCS to "have much greater control over our course revision cycle." [I'm not sure what this actually means.]

Detailed extracts and links to sources follow. The most information I can find comes from this press-release-of-sorts posted on a Denver region public blog space:

Agreement Reduces Costs for College Students ((From, visited Fri Jul 11 2008 08:56:05 EDT.))

Contributed by: Joe Marquez [Manager of System Communications, Colorado Community College System] on 7/1/2008 

In its 10th year, CCCOnline is a consortium of the 13 institutions of the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) that furnishes online courses and student services to 17,000 individuals annually via nearly 1,400 course offerings. CCCOnline enables students to earn a degree or certificate from one of the 13 CCCS colleges via a curriculum which may be pursued entirely online or in combination with classroom instruction. 

Students will pay for their eTextbooks through a one-time digital materials charge that will appear when they are assessed tuition, enabling students to know upfront exactly what it will cost to take their CCCOnline course. "This arrangement is an excellent complement to the cadre of methods we are using to minimize the costs and improve the quality of course materials for our students," adds Epper. Students may print whatever section of the eTextbook they desire, or, if they wish to have the text entirely in hard copy form, they can purchase a custom black-and-white print version via participating campus bookstores.

Another savings for CCCOnline will come from the edition control afforded by the new agreement. "CCCOnline faculty and instructional designers spend an enormous amount of time each semester revising courses to keep pace with updated textbook editions," explains Epper. "Under the Pearson agreement, we will have much greater control over our course revision cycles."

"We are delighted to collaborate with CCCOnline in producing content that benefits the consortium and its students," remarked Daniel Bartell, Pearson Vice President and Director of Institutional Sales. "Working with CCCOnline we have created a model that gives students customized learning materials in a digital format," he added.

CCCOnline is launching the new program for their Summer 2008 semester. At the end of the 2008-09 academic year, 17 courses (some offered in multiple sections per semester) will be part of this partnership that directly impacts college affordability. CCCOnline will continue converting courses to use the reduced- price electronic textbooks with the goal of having a majority of their enrollments benefiting from the agreement by Spring 2011. The agreement will complement other methods CCCOnline is using to minimize course material costs such as wikibooks and National Repository of Online Courses (NROC) digital content.

Between Summer 2008 and Spring 2009, the arrangement will benefit CCCOnline students taking specific Sociology, Human Nutrition, Business, Criminal Justice, Biology, History, Management, Economics, Marketing and Geography classes.

The story was picked up by a local news outlet, and has a few more details (particularly in the comments section of the news article):

Learning from a book that is not really a book ((From, visited Fri Jul 11 2008 08:51:36 EDT.))

Colorado Community Colleges Online just signed a deal with the Pearson Publishing Company to start getting required textbooks over the Internet....  [Lisa] Cheney-Steen [co-executive director for Learning Technology at Colorado Community Colleges Online] says reading the real page on a Web page can cut costs by half or more.  There is a $49 flat fee to access the online textbooks for each course. However, the same books for the same course could easily cost more than $100 a piece.

The comments in the story include these two paragraphs from Lisa Cheney-Steen ((Comment posted to on Mon Jul 7 2008 7:29 PDT)):

The contract with Pearson includes the option to purchase a black and white version of the textbook for an additional $50. That saves the print costs of individuals who prefer to read from paper.

CCCOnline is also working on producing more open-content courses, which don't require a textbook at all and instead use content available on the web. Those courses aren't free because it takes a significant amount of extra time to keep the resource links current, but they are much less expensive than a textbook. They include a recommendation of a textbook for those who want to purchase one, but there is no discount on those texts. For a look at one of these courses please see this link -


14-Jul-2008: I learned some more about the program from Lisa Cheney-Steen, co-executive director for Learning Technology at Colorado Community Colleges Online. Lisa kindly responded to some questions posed in a series of e-mails:

What is the delivery mechanism for the content?

The content generally sits on the publisher's websites -- for example in MyMathLab or in Course Connect.  Some of it is in our LMS. We like it better in the publisher's databases though so they can keep it current.

What is the nature of the content in the agreement?

This is a big deal question.  Right now most of the time we have what is essentially a PDF of the textbook (exact replica) plus all available electronic content.  We don't convert a course to this unless there is a significant amount of electronic content available (graphics, interactive, audio, video, etc.)  We are asking Pearson to work harder on developing a true electronic textbook that is more in line with the direction online magazines have gone -- with hyperlinks, definitions, links to additional information, interactive graphics, etc. Something more in line with what organizations like NROC are doing.  (There was a link in there to an NROC course we ave developed that is also textbook free.)

Who is included in the program?

Just the online courses at this point.

How is the student charged?

Line item on the tuition bill. [As in, a separate line item on the tuition bill.]

Have you reconciled the problem of financial aid that includes textbooks?

The $40 charge appears on the student's tuition bill, making it very straightforward to pay with financial aid.  Here financial aid accounts are handled at the colleges, not at the bookstore, so as soon as the financial aid officer approves the tuition bill, this charge is covered.

How does this agreement relate to text book selection?

All of our faculty use the same text, but they do get to choose that text as a group.  About a third of our courses used Pearson texts when we started, but not necessarily everyone in this first batch. We did talk to faculty teaching courses who were facing an edition change and ask them to review the Pearson text and choose it if 1) it is an appropriate text that is at least comparable to other texts and 2) the Pearson text is one with a plethora of electronic materials to look at.

What does "edition control" mean?

These are technically all custom published books, so we get to choose when we release a new edition.