Nationally, two thirds of college students skip purchasing a required textbook because of the cost. More than one-third struggle to purchase any books.
“Professors see this all the time. Students try to borrow books from friends, find an old version or use free trial periods for e-books to piece together what they need as best they can,” says Dr. Maggie Callahan-Mabus, assistant professor and director of first-year seminars at Hastings College.
She says surveys show Hastings College students are no different than what you’d see nationally in the percentage of students who struggle to purchase books, which can cost $1,000 or more per year.
“We are a campus of diverse backgrounds and many first-generation students,” she says. “Students and families work to afford tuition but can’t always afford items like books and technology that are essential for positive student outcomes.”
When the idea came a year ago for Hastings College to provide students with all required textbooks, at the same time it was gearing up to provide iPad Pros and Apple Pencils, everyone jumped on board, Callahan-Mabus says.
The program rolled out this fall, providing textbooks to all students at no additional cost. Many are delivered as e-books to an app on the student’s iPad, while those in print are picked up at the bookstore.
“It was great to start the fall semester knowing everyone would have the books and technology they needed to be successful on the first day of class,” Callahan-Mabus says.
Access to technology to complete assignments, use study aids or work on projects is also cost prohibitive for many students, and was part of the goal in providing iPad Pros and Apple Pencils. The college provides a curated set of apps for students, such as Notability, which allows students to take handwritten notes with the Apple Pencil. Notability also lets students add photos and videos to their notes.
“I’m in love with it. We have a bookshelf app on the iPad where we’re able to get all the books included with tuition,” said Parker Fleming, a senior from Hastings. “It’s nice to be in the middle of class and if you want to add a picture, you can take one with the iPad or pull one up on Google and insert it into your notes.”
The iPad Pros also let students collaborate on projects and share information — and since notes and class handouts are digital and backed up to the cloud, nobody loses anything.
“Students caught on quickly,” Callahan-Mabus says. “One may take a photo for a project and then AirDrop it to everyone in class. We’ve also seen students teaching each other, in some cases casting to the Apple TV, which we have in every classroom, so the whole class can see how they were able to accomplish a task.”
Other apps, like iMovie, allow students to create videos. In first-year seminars, every student created a 60-second film, then did a longer documentary-style interview of someone in the community.
Maddie Samuelson, a sophomore from Littleton, Colorado, says the technology allows her to sketch whenever she wants, look up artists as she’s reading about them and, more importantly, be more efficient when studying while traveling with the soccer team.
Dr. Stephanie Furrer, professor of psychology, says some e-books are interactive to help drive learning, and some even guide students through passages related to content they will be tested on, with practice tests along the way.
“Simply reading and re-reading the passage can mislead students into thinking they understand the information, when really they are just more familiar with the text,” she says. “Research suggests people learn best when they practice by testing their understanding of the material. If students don’t show comprehension as they move through the passage, they cannot continue with the practice test until they show they understand the material.”
In addition to the books and iPad Pro initiatives, Hastings College is developing other student-focused programs, such as a study abroad opportunity for sophomores that’s available at no additional cost, and block-style semesters that allow students to focus on one or two classes at a time.