Looking back and thinking forward: the shifting world of higher education

This year has been one of monumental change. We have witnessed a pivotal turning point in teaching and learning. The shift towards online learning has opened doors to new ways of thinking and enabled us to embrace the technology at our fingertips. As we reflect on the many challenges higher education has faced this year, that have shaped the rapid evolution of teaching and learning, we can begin to register the lessons learned and realise the tenacity and dynamism of a once, relatively static system. Our perception of teaching and learning can’t be shaped by the past. Blended learning is a new paradigm altogether and calls for a new outlook.

This year, many have achieved things previously thought impossible. The digital classroom has connected people across countries in a way that empowers students and enables effective distance learning. Online learning has become integral to education, but it should not become a replacement of face to face teaching. When blended learning is done well, digital and in-person delivery can enhance each other. However, online learning still has its flaws. The Office for Students’ September poll revealed that over half of students that responded to the poll felt that their learning had been impacted by a slow or unreliable internet connection, while around one in five had problems accessing a computer, laptop or tablet. More than half of students responding to the poll believed that their learning was damaged by a lack of access to appropriate online materials, with one in ten impacted severely.

Access issues and digital poverty are key problems that need to be tackled. Other key issues include technological fatigue and a lack of social engagement, both affecting student wellbeing. While the primary response to the pandemic has been focused on physical health, mental health must not be overlooked. Solutions to this problem involve multiple mechanisms of support and include improving access, building online communities and enabling collaboration, especially around content and learning. Internet and electronic devices must be made available to all, students with disabilities and learning difficulties must be accommodated, and psychological support must be provided. Defining standards in online learning to ensure equality of education is vital in order to make the most of the new learning environment, see improved outcomes and drive positive change.

Digital learning is here to stay, but, as identified, there is much room for improvement. We need to continue to progress and consider how institutions and libraries can better support teaching and learning. Libraries play a crucial, central role in the acquisition and integration of content. How can we adapt to make this as simple and seamless as possible to enhance the learning experience and allow students to get the most out of their studies? This progression requires further innovation and open-mindedness, not only within higher education but in society at large, to allow for new and improved realities and expectations of teaching and learning as it continues to evolve. 

As we enter a new year, Kortext strives to be at the forefront of online learning and build upon our success to continue to support teaching and learning across the globe. As Henry Ford once said; ‘You can’t learn in school what the world is going to do next year.’ But we can think in new ways so that we are able to adapt. It is important to reflect on the past year but also look ahead to the future of learning. In a series of articles released in 2021, we will address a number of points surrounding how libraries and institutions can better support teaching and learning in this new environment, with an aim to improve the online learning experience, student engagement and the education system for all and maximise the potential of this new paradigm. 

UK Higher Education Sector Overview

Kortext’s reach within UK universities gives it a unique data driven perspective on student engagement with online learning materials. Early data shows a huge year-on-year increase in usage with over 53 million pages accessed by hundreds of thousands of students in the first two months of the Autumn semester. The most startling insight from the data is the significant difference seen from institutions where Kortext is accessed via a VLE, to those where access is through other discovery tools. The key differences were, longer study time, more pages accessed and a greater number of personal annotations.

Library Solutions Infographic

Case Studies

Manchester University

University of Manchester

"One of the most important parts for us in terms of provision is the monitoring of usage data on the Kortext analytics dashboard. Providing students engagement analytics for our academic staff together with other information is vital for them for early intervention in terms of non-continuation risk."

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Middlesex University

Middlesex University

"In terms of how we work with Kortext, it has always felt to me to be a successful partnership. Our NSS has gone up about 20% in the period of time we’ve been running this, so satisfaction with our resource provision has risen."

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University of Plymouth

University of Plymouth

"Students found that the accessibility features within the platform itself and also the ability to use the titles offline as well as online via multiple devices was very valuable to them." When asked if they found that "having access to these titles made it easier to read and study the books recommended for their module [students] overwhelmingly agreed."

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Kortext supporting the blended learning environment

With a purpose to empower the next generation of difference-makers through teaching and learning, in a little over seven years Kortext has become the UK’s leading digital  textbook platform. We continue to see large-scale growth with blended learning becoming the new normal. 

Working with 4,000+ publishers including Pearson, McGraw Hill, Wiley and Oxford University Press, we now supply 2 million eTextbooks to students in 80+ countries, on an aggregated, personalised bookshelf.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic when students had to continue their studies from home, Kortext partnered with Microsoft and Jisc to deliver the national Free Student eTextbook Programme (FSTP) which was taken up by over 150 UK and Irish universities and colleges. The programme saw over 16,000 textbook titles set up with over 6 million pages accessed and 114,000 hours of study time by students. 

Kortext has built on the success of this programme to now deliver ongoing sustainable access models for UK Higher Education institutions. In October 2020 alone, over 20 million pages were accessed on the Kortext platform, equating to over 260,000 hours of study time. We also saw 1.2 million annotations of text. These data points illustrate the incredibly high engagement levels on the Kortext platform which is becoming a fundamental part of the blended learning experience at universities across the country.

We are committed to continually evolving the platform to ensure we meet the needs of university libraries, helping you to put students and faculty at the heart of the blended learning experience. We will work with you to ensure this mission is achieved and a world class teaching and learning experience is delivered. 

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Flexible access models

Kortext Complete

For universities and faculties wanting to provide broad online access to all adopted textbooks for a single price, with added support and detailed engagement analytics to help drive progression, retention and success.

Kortext Personalised

For universities who have a requirement to provide specific titles to students on a specific course.

Kortext Access

For universities looking to enable multi-concurrent access to content either library selected or student selected via Patron Driven Acquisition plans. (Please note, not all publishers offer this access for textbooks). In addition students are able to purchase content for themselves directly should they wish to do so.

Why Kortext?

Kortext is already the lead, contracting supplier of digital content learning solutions to universities across the UK who, under the Jisc and SUPC contracts already in place, can directly award to Kortext without the need for a lengthy tender process and be guaranteed the best pricing terms available.

Our partnership with universities is a constant focus on outcomes:

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Improving student experience and satisfaction

A universal content and learning platform improves the student experience and leads to higher levels of student satisfaction and can be measured through improved NSS scores as well as surveys.

Improved student retention and progression

Having supplied many large scale programmes over a number of years we know that retention and progression are improved through student engagement with their learning materials and better collaborative learning opportunities.

Support for TEF

With eTextbook programmes increasingly being looked at as a demonstration of support for teaching and learning, they have positively impacted TEF awards and increasingly data from these programmes can be used to support TEF submissions.


Equity of access

We’ve achieved a 100% ASPIREreview score for accessibility. Working with Widening Participation Groups we have shown that by enabling equal access to educational resources, the most disadvantaged students are given equal opportunity to study and progress.

Exceeding expectations

The recent Pearson/Wonkhe study illustrated that “High Quality Online Teaching” is the overwhelming expectation of Students this autumn. With access to 4,000 publishers, over one million titles and a seamless integration into the VLE, Kortext will help all Universities meet and exceed this expectation.

Why the Kortext Platform?

The Kortext platform is different. It’s a cutting edge, cloud architected system that gives every student their own unique bookshelf and connects them to their content, to each other and to their academics. The platform hosts over 1m eTextbooks and allied learning materials such as video, from over 3,000 academic publishers. It facilitates seamless connection from your university’s VLE, reading list or library catalogue, through to the required textbooks along with associated video, assessment and courseware platforms.

The platform incorporates a world class, student learning analytics solution that actively supports student retention, progression and success and we have partnered with Microsoft to build scalability, security and performance.

Kortext is the only platform that enables students to connect from Kortext directly to other key, library content platforms and bring content into one unified view for the student; be that EBSCO, ProQuest, publishers like Taylor and Francis, or the Course Packs delivered through the Copyright Licensing Agency’s blanket licence. This unique ability truly drives significant efficiencies and improvements to the student learning experience. Connectivity between students, their academics and their content for collaborative learning comes to life through Kortext.

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