Zuhair Zaidi
Mercury Staff

New university program to provide more accessible textbooks, cheaper class materials

The UTD bookstore will adopt a new program to simplify the process of shopping for and using textbooks.

Follett, the university’s bookstore partner, plans to use a
new optimization tool known as Discover to make accessing textbooks a more
seamless experience for both professors and students. Discover will launch in
the spring of 2019 and will expand to its full capacity later in the summer.

Healthcare studies sophomore Aasir Noorali said the process
of buying books has become increasingly cumbersome in recent years.

 “I feel as though
there is a huge inconsistency between Blackboard and UTD Coursebook that just
confuses me and leaves me having to stress about where to find my books, what
books I need to buy and how much I need to pay for books,” Noorali said.

Manager Rawn Johnson said the decision to adopt Discover was
a much-needed addition to the bookstore. He said the decision will improve user
experience and help students and the bookstore better prepare for the upcoming
semester.

“What Discover will do is streamline the process and
hopefully make the adoption a lot more intuitive and user-friendly than
anything we’re doing now,” Johnson said. “This is going to be a one-click
access to all of your classes on one page and what or what not those course
materials are.”

The Discover workflow comprises four main components. The
first will allow professors to browse and adopt more than textbooks.
Alternatives such as open education resources will allow for course materials
such as online textbooks to be offered to students at much lower prices. In
addition, having professors choose their materials for the next semester in
advance will allow for the university to negotiate prices with publishers and
accurately measure the sizes of orders for course materials, allowing the
bookstore to gauge the number of students willing to sell back textbooks that
could be sold as used books for the following semesters. 

“We have had some huge wins. We’ve brought the calculus book
down by more than $50, we’ve brought the (general) chemistry books down by more
than $150,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of options open to us when we have
that information in time.”

Students will have access to a “view and shop” module, which
will be in place for the spring. This will allow students to view all required
materials for all their courses in one area within Blackboard and be able to
immediately view prices and purchase their materials while on that page.
Additionally, in the future, Discover will allow integrations with savings
programs so students can access discounts and other sales. Director of Food and
Retail Carrie Chutes said the adoption of Discover was to help alleviate
textbook-related issues the university community as a whole faced.

“It’s giving students the heads up right away, where we
weren’t able to do before, for what they need to budget for their classes for
the next semester,” Chutes said. “As a university, we don’t receive a
commission on textbook sales. There is no hidden initiative from us — it’s
simply to provide the best value to our students.”

The final component of Discover allows students to open most
online services such as homework or course materials that require access codes
directly within Blackboard, diminishing the need for students to go to specific
publisher sites to be able to redeem and access their coursework.

Noorali said the implementation of Discover will be an
important tool to use in future semesters. 

“If this initiative goes as planned, then it will be a huge
conduit of success for UTD students and the UTD bookstore,” Noorali said. “It
will allow me to shop for books stress-free and offer me a unified place where
I can do all my school work.”