The 5 Key Pieces of a Successful Courseware Platform…

For decades, the components of a general education course were melded together by the manual efforts of an instructor and codified in their syllabus. For the most part, the knitting wasn’t too onerous. The instructional materials were usually centered around a textbook and any other elements an instructor brought in on their own, but over time that dynamic changed. By the late ‘80’s, the idea of adding extra resources to the traditional textbook had taken off in the form of textbook ancillary packages. Always looking for ways to distinguish their textbook, publishers began adding to the instructor materials hopeful that the new supplements would tilt the adoption in their favor. The genie was out of the bottle with two major consequences. First, instructors, who benefited from the new resources, were also contending with more than just a few items to assemble for their course. After sifting through the new offerings many settled on a few key additions. Initially students also benefited with new study aides, but as you can imagine, it came at a cost. Teacher ancillaries were provided “free” to an adopting instructor. However, to re-coup their ancillary investment, publishers began raising textbook prices.

Act Two: The Rise of Digital

The next act in evolving course support development sprang from the rise of digital technology. While non-print support had always been available and helpful, it was fairly rudimentary, and still required a major investment of instructor time and effort, until electronic homework debuted. Now, students could work through practice questions themselves, and thanks to auto grading functions, instructors did not have to spend hours manually grading their work. E-homework generated a new source of revenue, so it didn’t take long before the publishing industry, once dominated by a few print-centric publishers, began to sprout competitors whose focus was on e-delivery tools. It’s this dynamic that leads into where we are with courseware today.

Digital Today

Today’s courseware is a blended digital solution. With e-homework as its anchor, courseware packages followed the trajectory of those old print ancillary packages, except digitally. The e-book, once thought to be the immediate heir to print books, found its place next to homework online, offering context instead of a one-to-one translation of the print textbook. Soon, other items were integrated into the electronic materials which have led to what we think of as courseware.

Items Included In Courseware…

  • Videos
  • Low-stakes quizzing
  • Chat functionality
  • Peer-to-peer communication
  • Multi-media components like graphics, audio files, slide shows, etc.
  • More complex homework problems and the ability to provide hints and instant feedback

While all these items can offer benefits, it is when they harmonize without distracting that they become assets to both student and instructor. To that end, we are now beginning to see platforms, inside and out of Learning Management Systems emerge.

The 5 Key Pieces of a Successful Courseware Platform…

  • Set-up – Everyone wants the benefits of integrated and harmonious instruction, but if it comes at the cost of too much set-up and maintenance, most instructors will walk away, especially if the product is not intuitive.
  • Customization – How easily can the materials be customized? Many courses are tailored to their audience, resources, environment, and instructor biases. Again, the effort-to-reward ratio to create what an instructor wants and needs is paramount. If it is too hard to customize or the features don’t lend themselves to customization, instructors will have second thoughts about adopting it.
  • Pricing – On everyone’s mind, especially nowadays, as the cost of publisher materials continue to rise is the overall cost to the student. While courseware can replace items like the textbook, homework and study guides, the final price cannot be the sum of the items less ten percent, the price has to be significantly lower.
  • Integration – Can the courseware and the results/grades integrate in the school’s LMS? Preferably this is a single sign-on option so that students won’t have an excuse to leave the platform and get sidetracked elsewhere.
  • Support – Most instructors don’t have the time, patience or technical expertise to act as the digital support frontperson to their students. E-delivery needs to be accompanied by reliable and responsive customer service for the duration of the product’s use.

The anecdotal evidence is that e-delivery of course materials is becoming more commonplace in higher education and more accepted by college students. Even many face-to-face classes use some sort of a digital component. As this trend continues, platforms like courseware have an opportunity to become the one-stop resource for instructors and students for all of their course materials.


Van-Griner Learning Courseware

Our courseware includes everything students need to navigate and instructors need to teach their general education courses. It’s ultra-affordable price, high level of interactivity and accountability, and reliable customer support for the life of the product make it a valuable resource for face-to-face, hybrid, or virtual courses.

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Van-Griner Learning ServicesVan-Griner Learning

Van-Griner Learning is a  full-service, affordable, publisher of digital and print solutions. We unlock the power of publishing by designing affordable digital and print solutions to meet your specific needs. We provide Labs, Textbooks, Worktext, Homework, OER, Readers, Courseware and more!
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