At Ambassador, they are always thinking of new and better ways to support the course materials lifecycle. Their revolutionary course materials platform, RODA, is the evolution of their partnerships and represents their commitment to introducing the right kind of change, making it easier for students, schools, and publishers to work together.
RODA merges access, affordability, and transparency. It is built upon the same reliable technology and support services schools have come to know and expect from Ambassador, plus added controls, functionality, and analytics to address changing market dynamics. With RODA, course materials have never been easier.
RODA fills the data and service gaps between schools and publishers, easing course materials adoption, management, delivery, and access for everyone.
For Students, No More Navigating Multiple Platforms
RODA simplifies access to affordable course materials through one centralized course materials platform so that students can focus less on logistics and more on learning.
Download Student Overview >>
For Schools, No More Weighing Down IT
RODA streamlines course materials operations and publisher relationships. RODA manages integrations, provides detailed usage and cost transparency, configures access to content based on duration, facilitates opt-outs and compliance for Inclusive Access programs, and handles all publisher-related issues.
Download School Overview >>
Download Independent Bookstore Overview >>
Download Inclusive Access and Equitable Access Overview >>
For Publishers, No More Guesswork
RODA eases account management, integration, and reconciliation processes. RODA allows publishers to lock down content for students who opt-out and provides verifiable data for all transactions so publishers are accurately compensated.
Download Publisher Overview >>
RODA is built upon the same technology that students, schools, and publishers have come to know and expect from Ambassador, as well as added controls, functionality, and analytics to address changing market dynamics. Plus, RODA is backed by Ambassador’s responsive, reliable client services and IT support teams.
Read Our Press Announcement >>
Combating the fragmented approach to content that students, schools, and publishers have faced, RODA improves accessibility, affordability, and transparency. RODA is more important than ever as schools embrace new learning models, especially in this increasingly digital world.
Bruce is the vice president of business engineering with Ambassador Education Solutions.
Laura is the vice president of sales with Ambassador Education Solutions.
|Bob Martin: Welcome to this episode of Career College Central Radio. Students have course materials by the first day of class, courses flow better, collaboration is easier, and learning is more engaging. Equitable access and inclusive access course materials’ distribution models are growing in popularity, automatically connecting students to print textbooks, digital resources, OER, printing on-demand, kits, labs, supplies, devices, and even access to the internet. Our conversation today is all about equitable access and inclusive access—how it works, the pros and cons that schools need to weigh when they consider this, and how these models can be applied to improve convenience, affordability, and outcomes. Joining us today to discuss this topic is Bruce Schneider and Laura Kavanagh with Ambassador Education Solutions. Welcome, guys.
|Bruce Schneider: Thank you.
|Laura Cavanagh: Thanks, Bob.
|Bob: It’s nice to have you here. Joining us also is Lee, who’s going to jump in here in a minute. So, Laura and Bruce, let’s start off with some of the trends you’re seeing in course material space. What’s going on out there?
|Laura: Gosh. Well, thanks, Bob. Hit the nail on the head there, looking at inclusive access, equitable access. Looking at it, say, from a school perspective, we’re seeing a need for reduced cost of course materials, increased availability for all of the students, which, of course, will drive better student outcomes by increased student retention, better academic performance. Again, from the school looking at simplifying the book list whenever possible. There’s a lot of different pieces that go into that. We also are looking at schools, trying to kind of take advantage more of special publisher pricing. From the student perspective, they really want that streamlined access to materials. They want to be able to receive all their materials in one place, have all of the materials provisioned to them prior to the start of class, and to really try to reduce the number of portals that they sometimes have to go to to access all of their digital materials.
|Bruce: Thanks, Laura. And Bob, from the publisher perspective, they’re involved in this, too. They want to make sure that students get their print and digital resources prior to class start, and they want to simplify that access for all their students. So, they’ve come up with these models and are really trying to get them rolled out to more and more schools. And part of this is also to increase the use of courseware. Courseware provides self-study guides, self-assessments, and homework tools for students. And overall, both inclusive access and equitable access are approaches that get materials to students automatically in time for the first day of class, which—as Laura mentioned—drives improved retention and student outcomes.
|Bob: I think that’s a very good explanation. And it kind of leads into this next question, which is hoping you can provide us—on a very high level to our listeners—a description of what you folks believe inclusive access and equitable access is. How does it work?
|Laura: Yeah. Thanks, Bob. It’s a great question. When you look at inclusive access and equitable access, they almost can be used interchangeably. It’s confusing for a lot of people to try to define the difference between the two. So, starting with inclusive access: that is course-based. It’s only all-digital materials only. Just digital. It’s integrated into the school’s LMS system, all of that digital content. It’s a publisher-negotiated price, which means that you are able to work with the publisher to get a greater discount on all of the digital materials that will be provisioned because you have every student receiving these materials prior to the start of class. And then again—going back, looking at the price, which includes the access—the price is also embedded into that course fee or resource fee.
|So, when we turn to equitable access and what does that mean? Or what we call, at Ambassador, our all-in model. So that’s an institution-wide based model. That’s, again, every student receives all the materials required for their courses prior to the start of class. And that includes all formats—whether you have a print book or a digital, it includes everything. There’s lots of different ways that you would break down the pricing structure for equitable access. One way that you can break that down would be through a flat fee per student. Another way would be looking at program costs. You could break it down by credit hour. So there’s several different ways that you could break down the pricing of an equitable access program per student for your institution.
|Lee Doubleday: Okay, Bruce, now let’s talk about some inclusive access and equitable access and how they address some of those trends that you mentioned earlier.
|Bruce: Well, both methods streamline the delivery of materials to students. They only have to enroll, and everything is handled automatically. It also improves accessibility because every student has the materials in the format they want—primarily digital, but they can always get print if they prefer it. Both methods increase engagement and positive outcomes. And this has been shown by many studies because students are more prepared, which leads to increased retention. And one of the other benefits is teachers know that all of their students have all the materials, so they’re no longer wondering which student is going to be the first one to fall behind. It’s also more affordable for all because both feature greatly reduced pricing. And using Ambassador for IA and EA means very accurate reconciliations, and schools know they’re only paying for what their students really need.
|Lee: Yeah, those are great benefits. So, tell me, how does inclusive access and equitable access programs work when it’s implemented by Ambassador? So, for instance, what’s Ambassador’s responsibility versus what the school is responsible for?
|Laura: Great question, Lee. So, every school is different, and every school is at a different starting point. So, we—first off—sit down with the school and develop a plan. We want to know what the school objectives are, what’s their tolerance for change, how open are they to perhaps provisioning more of the required books in a digital format versus a print? And really, how fast or slow do they want to proceed? But it’s very, super easy. All we really need from the school end is their book list and then we take it from there. We vet the book list, we check for availability and ability to procure all of the required titles for them to the estimated enrollment. If there are any issues with that, we go back and work with the school on anything that might be—for instance, an addition update that needs to take place or any changes in the supply and demand, which is even more important now and has been over the last twelve to twenty-four months.
|So, we do all of that work and we can provide all of the materials in whatever format the school chooses—print, digital. And then for the digital piece of it, when we secure those materials, we load all the digital materials into the school’s digital content collection. And for print, we procure all of the physical books and they’re stocked in our inventory space.
|Bruce: To the IT side of things—the data side of things—through a system integration or a data file share, the school provides Ambassador with their student directory information, shipping address, and course enrollments. Our system matches the student directory information and the course data to the book list that we talked about earlier. We automatically provision electronic materials, and our warehouse staff picks, packs, and ships all the physical materials to students’ addresses or to a physical space on campus. And if the school is using any third-party materials, like kits or supplies, we also can make sure that we send off the information to them so they can provision those materials directly to the student or to the campus as well. Our course materials platform, RODA, then collects all the school charges for the week and provides an invoice to the school—clear and concise with all the reconciliation reporting behind it. And students can opt out at the college-, course-, or item-level, and we track their opt-out so they’re not charged for the materials.
|Lee: Yeah, this all sounds really customized and it sounds like it’s designed to make everything a lot easier in regards to course materials for the school. And it also sounds very automated, which I think is awesome. But let’s talk about the students. Does inclusive access and equitable access programs include support for channels for students?
|Laura: Lee, you bring up a good point there too because you’d think that if all of the students are receiving all of their materials prior to the start of day one that it might take that piece out where they’re not shopping through an online bookstore model or going to brick-and-mortar stores to purchase their textbooks. So, they might have less questions or issues that they run into. But it’s really a very important piece of the overall puzzle. Students still need support, and there’s lots of different ways that they have access to support for questions. They might have issues with the digital content being delivered into their bookshelf or into their LMS portal at school. They can access student support through email, phone, lots of FAQs, and link to custom school self-help guides. I know, with us, we even have ways for students to go online and schedule a dedicated callback day and time for a student to receive a phone call from our customer service team that’s supporting their institution.
|So, 24/7 student self-help functionality is also really important, especially for college students these days that are kind of always on their phone. They always have access to their iPhone or their iPad or laptop and they’re used to having information instantaneously. So having answers to all these questions available 24/7, 365 days a year is really key in the communication style right now.
|Lee: Yeah, it sounds like a lot of support for the students that you all offer, which is fantastic. I know you mentioned earlier opting out. Let’s talk a little bit more about that. Do students have any say in that process, and what if they don’t want the materials they’re automatically receiving?
|Bruce: Well, Lee, this is really driven by the Department of Education requirements that were published quite a while ago for these automated fulfillment programs. Ambassador’s easy opt-out functionality meets those requirements and allows students to decline materials across the board always—if they don’t want it at all—or at a specific course or a specific item level. So, they have that kind of control. All materials—print, digital, third-party, including LMS embedded publisher direct content—can be made part of the easy opt-out program. The regulations though, it’s important to note, also allow schools to exclude items that the student either can’t get somewhere else or where there might be a safety concern should the student try to procure them elsewhere. But those guidelines are very spelled out. Ambassador has all that information for the schools.
|Lee: Got you. All right, Laura, with all this digital content, who handles the licenses and what’s involved with that?
|Laura: So, the licenses can get tricky. Some give the school complete control over what they pay. Others try to kind of lock schools into minimums, so the schools must be very careful not to provide any such guarantee in terms of just the licenses and purchasing those and distribution. Some will offer different kind of FTE student enrollment type licensing out there, where schools pay for licenses that are sometimes never even used or it can be an unnecessary cost for the school. Part of what we do is we handle, at Ambassador, all the license code redemption, the course drops and cancellations. And we provide detailed reconciliation reporting that includes data analytics and all the reporting that you would need to reconcile for both the school as well as the publishers. And we have systems in place that can configure the system for non-expiring or semester-based or census-based digital content that’s embedded into the school’s LMS. So, all of these things that we do save money for the school, so we prevent the deduping, the overpayments, the add/drops, the leave of absence, students that are using the same material in multiple classes that semester, so they’re not overpaying. So, it’s a big process and one that we’ve built the technology around optimizing this for our partners.
|Bob: Bruce, this is a very exciting opportunity—but with opportunity, there’s always issues. So, tell me, let’s look at a little bit different perspective. Okay? What role do publishers play in inclusive access and equitable access program? And, very frankly, are they fans of it?
|Bruce: Yeah. So, Bob, I’m glad you asked that. [laughter] Publishers are very much behind IA and EA programs, and they really were the ones that first came up with it and were pushing it. It has been demonstrated that students who receive all the materials before class have better grades and better overall outcomes—two things that benefit everyone. Publishers also benefit from the safeguards and controls that our system puts in place to ensure they’re being paid exactly what they’re owed for digital materials. That can be a challenge sometimes when census-based payments are being done by the school, and it may be very difficult for them to do so on a consistent basis. Also, when a student opts out, Ambassador can lock down that publisher’s content in the school’s LMS, offering additional protection to the publishers, knowing that students who opt out are not going to be able to get into the content.
|Bob: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that’s very important. Laura, let’s get down to dollars and cents where the rubber meets the road. How do these programs actually save money for students and for schools?
|Laura: So, one of the leading causes of overpayment with digital content comes when students, as I had mentioned earlier, use the same material across multiple terms and courses. So having controls in place to verify usage, access, and fees so they only pay for the materials that are actually used. We need to prevent duplicates, or duplicate payments, I should say, for digital materials. We need to avoid minimums and guarantees on these digital licenses, and really IA/EA allows a school to take advantage of that bulk pricing since all of the students purchase—as I had mentioned earlier—with that 100% kind of sell-through rate, and really take advantage of the discount that come along with it.
|Lee: That sounds great, and I’m sure you have a lot of testimonials from happy customers. But Bruce, can you give us an example of where a school is using inclusive access or equitable access?
|Bruce: Sure. One of our long-term clients was previously using our online bookstore service, and they were offering students the choice of print, e-books, and other content. The school wanted to save even more money than they were, and they also wanted to ensure all students had all materials prior to class start, rather than waiting for them to order their materials at the bookstore. And they know that some students don’t, for a variety of reasons, and that can lead to retention and outcome problems when some students don’t have their materials. After discussions with the school, Ambassador crafted an implementation plan that aligned with the school’s objectives—those things that Laura mentioned earlier. And working together, we transitioned the school from the online bookstore service model to an all-in automatic fulfillment model. And that system is informed by students’ course schedules directly from the school’s student information system. So, it’s all automated. The result is the school has the peace of mind of knowing that all students have all the materials on time. Course swaps and drops are handled automatically without manual intervention, and the school is saving about 25% of their prior course material expenditure because of those cost savings passed on by the publishers.
|Lee: That’s nice. Yeah. So, tell me then—big picture—where do you all see inclusive access and equitable access programs going and is this a long-term sustainable model?
|Laura: Personally, I do believe that it’s a long-term sustainable model. I’ve been in this industry for a while now, quite a while, and been selling this model for a decade, and the speed at which it keeps picking up is just still very interesting to me. I think that we’re going to see more and more and more institutions adopting this model going forward. What are your thoughts, Bruce?
|Bruce: I agree, Laura. And because it’s a win–win for everyone—it’s got legs, and it’s going to be sustainable, and it’s going to continue. And you and I have both seen so many of our clients adopting this model, and some of them have actually had it in place for almost eight years. So, it’s been interesting. But it’s going to be around for a while, and it’s going to continue to grow.
|Bob: Well, you got some interest here. And so, I’m going to give you both an opportunity—Laura and Bruce. If people are interested—they listen to this podcast, they say, “Hey, jeez, I’d like to get ahold of these people”—how do I get ahold of you, Laura, or you, Bruce, and where should I go? Www dot, whatever. Give us that, if you would, please.
|Bob: And Laura, what if they want to know more specifically? You got emails or that sort of thing that you’d like to share with us?
|Laura: Sure. Two things, too. Going to the website that Bruce had mentioned, there will be a place on the website that says, “let’s connect”. So, they can connect and submit requests, and I’ll be happy to reach out to them. They can also email me directly, which is the firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Bruce: And I’m—
|Bob: And you know they’re going to want to talk to you, Bruce. You know they’re going to want to. You’d better give us the information.
|Bruce: I’m email@example.com.
|Bob: I’ve known both of you guys for a long time. I’m just so pleased to have you on as guests today of Career College Central Radio. So, before we close, let me thank Bruce Schneider, Laura Kavanagh, and—in particular—Ambassador Education Solutions, for just an outstanding program. On behalf of my colleague Lee Doubleday, this is Bob Martin. We’re hoping all of you have a great day.
|Thank you for listening to Career College Central Radio. If you’d like more information pertaining to this episode, please visit our website: careercollegecentral.com and be sure to subscribe to this channel so you can be notified when we release new editions. Thank you and have a great day.