Publisher Perspectives

11 Partnering with Institutions for Student Success: Pearson Perspective

Nik Osborne, SVP Strategy & Business Operations, Pearson Education
Tim Peyton, VP of Solutions Portfolio Management, Pearson Education


Pearson and Indiana University (IU) have partnered for nearly five years on IU’s eTexts Initiative. During that time, the partnership has provided faculty and students with first day of class access to affordable, high quality Pearson products that help improve teaching and learning—and has saved IU students millions of dollars in the process.

Over the past five years, Pearson has successfully partnered with numerous institutions on similar initiatives and has found several common themes that support overall success. Below is a quick overview of the eText Initiative model—known commonly among publishers as “Inclusive Access”—necessary requirements, plus some features that have driven the success of the model at various institutions.


What does an Inclusive Access/eText Initiative require?

  • All students in participating courses are directly charged for course materials by the institution or bookstore/distributor as part of a course materials fee/bursar charge (subject to applicable opt-in/opt-out policies) in exchange for discounted pricing from publishers
  • A minimum sell-through threshold (typically 90% average across all participating courses) that ensures all students receive/have access to the required product and that publishers and content creators are compensated for all usage of the required product
  • The institution and their chosen bookstore/distributor adhere to a Maximum Resale Price for course materials—to ensure that the students receive the product at a discounted price, instead of at a price that has been marked up via traditional store margins
  • The publisher and institution implement a delivery model that enables day one access to course materials—ideally through LMS integration, though digital access codes are also an option


What common themes create successful Inclusive Access/eText Initiatives?

Pearson has found that the difference between highly successful initiatives that grow rapidly at an institution vs. those that stay in pilot mode for several semesters often depends on a few factors. As in the case with most partnerships, when both sides are aligned and working towards a common set of goals, the partnership is highly likely to succeed. When the efforts are one sided or alignment doesn’t exist, partnerships will often fail to meet the goals for which the partnership was formed. Below are some important points that should be considered when establishing an Inclusive Access model/eText Initiative:

  1. Identify the Goals of the Partnership. This may seem simple, but it’s extremely important to have a candid conversation about why the institution/publisher is interested in these types of models. Is the focus on lowering the cost to students? Ensuring all students and faculty have access to high quality materials on the first day of class? Is the institution interested in maintaining a revenue stream? Are there goals around improving student success or ensuring employability? Is there a desire to review and interact with learning data?
  2. Identify the Ecosystem. One of the biggest hindrances to these models/initiatives is the failure to understand and work within the institution’s ecosystem. Has an institutional digital platform been selected (i.e. Vitalsource, RedShelf, Engage, etc.)? If so, how will that platform work within the various institutional systems (LMS, SIS, Bursar, etc.)? Is a bookstore involved and what will be its role moving forward?
  3. Walk Through the Process. Every institution currently has a process for how faculty select course materials and students purchase and consume those course materials. When driving these models/initiatives, Pearson has ensured that all efforts are taken to work within the current process at the institution—however, in some cases adjustments need to be made to ensure the faculty/student experience is not disrupted. For example, how will financial aid be managed? How will digital products be integrated? How will student fees be charged? How will monies/payments be handled? What type of support processes will need to be in place?


Who is the Institutional Champion? Pearson has found that the success or failure of these Inclusive Access models/eText Initiatives hinges on one very important piece—the Institutional Champion. Institutions need to have someone who is willing to lead the program and drive its success across the institution. Undoubtedly, when initiating these models, roadblocks will emerge, issues will arise, problems will occur—and without a champion at the institution who is willing to push past these obstacles, the initiative can stall or even fail. Publishers and partners can help support these models, but it takes someone at the institution to champion the effort and ultimately drive success. Pearson has seen various leaders become the champion—from CIO’s/CFO’s, to Provosts/Chancellors to Chiefs of Staffs/Department Heads to Bookstore Managers—so there isn’t necessarily a requirement around the type of position necessary. However, if the desire is to create a successful and sustainable model moving forward, an Institutional Champion must be identified.

  1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. You simply cannot over communicate when establishing one of these models/initiatives. It’s important to consider all forms of communications—meetings, websites, FAQs, blanket messaging, marketing, etc.—as you will have various types of questions, comments, concerns, and perspectives from all types of individuals at the institution (faculty, students, parents, administrators, etc.). Further, strongly consider beginning your communications/gathering feedback long before you initiate the program. Pilots can be helpful as they can create real data that can be used in supportive communications, but you should strongly consider a robust communication effort prior to executing on the model/initiative.

Overall, implementing an Inclusive Access model/eText Initiative is an important piece of an institution’s overall approach to course materials, data analytics, and new models to support teaching and learning. There are multiple options and offers that can help institutions meet their individual goals while providing students with access to affordable learning materials, and there are excellent partners that can help an institution along the way.


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eTexts 101: A Practical Guide Copyright © by The Trustees of Indiana University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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