The View from My Classroom: Inclusive Access

smccormack
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In previous blogs I’ve mentioned that I use inclusive access in all of my on-campus and online classes. Some faculty are not familiar with this practice and have asked me to share some observations of this (relatively) new academic tool. Contained in this blog are my personal views with the caveat that some colleges/faculty have not adopted inclusive access for a number of reasons. My intent is not to debate the practice but to share the overwhelmingly positive experience I’ve had using inclusive access during the last three academic years.  

 

Prior to the Pandemic our college had a traditional bookstore with both physical books and access codes available for students to purchase. As someone who has long used a publisher-based learning management system in conjunction with the one that my college provides to all students, I found the first couple weeks of class challenging. Students would need to purchase an access code and then connect to the publisher’s materials to get started with our course assignments. Although theoretically this task should be rather simple, it was unnecessarily difficult for a number  of reasons. The main stumbling point for my students was the use of financial aid at the bookstore. Many students did not adequately understand the financial aid process as it relates to book purchases and as a result missed key deadlines for getting course materials. These same students then missed assignments at the start of the semester. 

 

In addition, some students struggled with the use of access codes. Again, we might see this as a non-issue in the 21st-century student’s life but the reality was something different. I had students lose codes, mis-type codes, choose the wrong text to which to match their code … all simple errors that resulted in a delay in the start of their participation in the course.

 

For me, the single greatest asset of inclusive access is having the course materials already loaded into our college’s learning management system on day one. My students, in fact, do not need to visit the bookstore for any of our course materials. Example: for US History I and II I use The American Promise with Achieve. I work with my Macmillan sales representative about two weeks before the start of classes to make the relevant connections (I’ll discuss these in a future blog) and when my students log in to our LMS they are already connected to needed materials. For those classes that meet in person I am able to show the students at our first meeting exactly where everything is. For online classes I provide an instructional video to show them where/how to find what they need.

 

This summer I am teaching a six week intensive US History I. Our IT department provided my students with laptops for our first meeting and they were able to immediately get working with course materials. No trip to the bookstore. No financial aid questions. The cost of the course materials is billed directly to the students with their tuition, which means no additional financial aid concerns/deadlines. Having no delay between the start of class and access to course materials meant that the very first week of class my students were able to read two chapters in the eBook and complete course assignments for both. This instant access has been extremely valuable this summer as we strive to complete an entire semester in six weeks.

 

I’d love to hear from those of you who have not yet tried inclusive access: what are your concerns? And those who have used it, what are your experiences? Please share.

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About the Author
Suzanne K. McCormack, PhD, is Professor of History at the Community College of Rhode Island where she teaches US History, Black History and Women's History. She received her BA from Wheaton College (Massachusetts), and her MA and PhD from Boston College. She is currently at work on a study of the treatment of women with mental illness in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Massachusetts and Rhode Island.