Easing the Burdens of Institutions, Students and Publishers
As the textbook space gets murkier in the wake of the Kirtsaeng V. Wiley decision, platforms for delivering online texts and course material will become more appealing to publishers who hope to avoid grey markets and arbitrage. The Indianapolis-based Courseload, a company founded in the early 2000s by Apple alum Mickey Levitan, brings more than a decade of experience in electronic textbook delivery to its offering.
"The company's biggest focus is looking at issues faced by higher-education institutions around pressures to reduce costs and improve educational outcomes," says Jennifer Callicoat, the company's Vice President for Publisher and Content Partnerships. In addition to providing a learning platform, Courseload deals with all copyrights and permissions for texts a school wants to use. "We're the aggregator and distributor of content. We establish contacts with publishers for easy flow-though. Once a school requests a certain type of content — and in most cases we already have an agreement — we request the files or, if we already have them, we take it from our database. … Institutions don't work with publishers directly."
The company has found that the students who are most successful with its product are the ones whose "instructor is engaged in using features of Courseload," says Callicoat. "Instead of just reading [the textbook] via the platform — it's really about the instructor customizing within the textbook, adding links that are current-day representations of a common term that they're teaching about. Going in and highlighting and making annotations in the textbook. Creating mini videos and inserting those alongside homework problems. It's really about instructors engaging with content and customizing what they're trying to achieve."
To this end, Courseload strives for adoption at the institution level — where it has seen increasing success at for-profit institutions and community colleges, which tend to have more centralized decision-making — and focuses on providing training for faculty, instructional designers and others involved in student support. Courseload has also emphasized accessibility, ensuring that all students have the same opportunities to interact with its content.