A move towards digital learning to enhance student experience
The University of Manchester partnered with Kortext in a shift towards digital learning and to address access issues, especially for large cohorts where print provision couldn’t meet demand. Offering the most advanced digital platform, with scaling support from Microsoft, Kortext not only provides access, but also content acquisition, recommendation and results.
The University of Manchester boasts the most international students in the United Kingdom, with 160 nationalities from different corners of the globe coming together for their studies. Olivia Walsby, Reading List Services Manager at University of Manchester stated: “Another big push for us was online blended learning for all […] We were looking to support the growth of our international student body and directly support, University of Manchester worldwide as it grew […] So looking to provide frictionless digital access to personal copies of textbooks 24/7 from anywhere.”
A further key driving force behind the University of Manchester’s partnership with Kortext was to enhance student learning experience through monitoring and assessing engagement. Our analytics dashboards provide real-time data that shows how students engage with their key resources, learn and progress. These data sets can help universities make informed decisions on curriculum review and highlight students who may need support, leading to improved retention and progression rates.
Olivia Walsby, University of Manchester
The University of Manchester positioned the library as the centre of expertise in negotiating and coordinating the purchase of eTextbooks to increase value for money and organise spending across faculties, leading to higher economies of scale for the institution. They focused on prioritising access to core essential reading, and provision for distance learning courses and large undergraduate cohort courses.
The initial focus on provision for first year students was gradually adjusted to include second and third year students. In 19/20 just over 11,500 students at University of Manchester received access to the eTextbook programme, including 88% of all first year undergraduates.
The University of Manchester shares results from the Kortext analytics dashboard with academics in order to highlight the necessity for intervention, review set textbooks, and inform conversations with publishers.
Olivia Walsby stated: “One of the most important aspects for us in terms of provision is the monitoring of usage data on the Kortext analytics dashboard.”
Since partnering with Kortext, comments from students about difficulties in accessing textbooks for their course have “completely diminished”. The eTextbook programme has reduced the need to print and secured equity of access. The platform provides “not just a replica of the print but something that is more interactive”, enhancing study through Kortext tools such as search functionality, note sharing, lecturer feeds, text to speech functionality and more.
The programme has provided support for disadvantaged students and boosted student retention. “Those students who couldn’t otherwise afford a paper copy for themselves are no longer at a disadvantage or excluded from the optimal opportunity for success on their course.” The programme lead from the school of Law at Manchester commented: “It feels like we’re providing something really valuable financially, as well as academically.”
There has been a very positive student uptake – 80% of students who were offered eTextbooks in the 19/20 year registered to use them, and an average of 88% of these students were actively using them to study. Engagement levels have been picking up each year since the Kortext programme was introduced, and levels of usage and interaction are the same across all three faculties.
Olivia Walsby reported that “usage of all the different functionalities on the platform has increased in the past year, except printing copies which has decreased”, thus highlighting a positive shift towards digital learning.
The University of Manchester is in the process of broadening its intended remit for the programme in light of COVID-19 and due to the success of the programme so far.