What’s the Best Digital Course Materials Model for Your Campus?

What’s the Best Digital Course Materials Model for Your Campus?

How to Guarantee the Lowest Textbook, eBook and Courseware Pricing

It’s no secret: college textbooks are (and always have been) expensive. In recent years, the course materials market began addressing affordability for students with a shift from print format textbooks to digital formats like eBooks and courseware. And this shift to digital has been very effective so far. Students have saved hundreds of millions of dollars, and campuses are seeing dramatically improved student outcomes for those who get access to digital course materials on day one of class.

This digital transformation isn’t without its challenges. With digital formats being offered for sale directly from the textbook publisher websites and through so many e-commerce stores like amazon.com, VitalSource and Chegg, campus bookstores are struggling to negotiate competitive pricing from the textbook and digital content providers. In a regular retail market, this wouldn’t normally raise an eyebrow. But on college campuses, students who need to use Financial Aid, Pell Grants and scholarships to pay for textbooks can only use those funds to buy textbooks at their campus store. So, if the campus store can’t get and offer the best prices, it’s a serious problem that these students with the least money have to pay higher prices (as much as $25 more per book) for their required course materials.

So, just how can a campus ensure that students paying with these campus-based funds get instant access to digital course materials at the best price? New, trending business models on campuses across the country aim to do just that. They are:

  • Inclusive Access (also known as Opt-out model) 
  • Equitable Access (also known as an All-in or “bundled with tuition” model
  • Institutional Access of Campus-based (the latest, most comprehensive model)


Inclusive Access (“IA”)

What is it?

Inclusive Access is a model that adds the cost of digital course content into students’ campus accounts along with tuition and fees, for each IA course. For a discounted price, students get access to the required digital course materials on the first day of class. They are typically accessed through the campus learning management system (LMS).

With Inclusive Access, individual college faculty choose to offer the business model on a course-by-course basis. By Federal law, students have the choice to opt-out if they prefer not to pay for the digital course materials.


  1. Students get access on the first day of class. 
  2. College faculty maintain the freedom to choose their preferred course materials. 
  3. In exchange for the higher volume sales, publishers extend lower costs to students through the program than are available from their own or other e-commerce sites.


  1. Limited Adoption: Not all faculty choose Inclusive Access (about 17% of all course materials costs in the United States are part of an IA program).
  2. Competition: Newer “unlimited” or “plus” short-term or monthly-payment subscription models offered directly by publishers are now often perceived by students as a better deal than Inclusive Access.  
  3. Resource Constraints: Some Inclusive Access tech providers require a lot of time and resources from campus IT teams to manage enrollment data every term and set up new LMS Integrations for every publisher.


Equitable Access (“EA”)

What is it?

Equitable Access is a flat-rate subscription model that allows students to pay a single fee for first-day digital LMS access to all required content, regardless of their major and courses. 

With Equitable Access, a campus chooses to offer students all course materials adopted by their faculty for one affordable fee, usually per credit per hour. This is not limited to just digital course materials, but can include print books and physical materials, too.


  1. Students get access on the first day of class. 
  2. College faculty maintain the freedom to choose their preferred course materials. 
  3. Broadens savings and cost equity to all students on campus (not just the courses where faculty choose to use Inclusive Access).


  1. Some Inequity: In practice, Equitable Access is not always that “equitable.” The one-fee model may occasionally result in students paying more for course materials than they would if bought directly online. 
  2. Approvals: It can be challenging to get the necessary administrative or system-level approvals for Equitable Access, to include the cost of course materials with tuition bills. 
  3. Resource Constraints: Equitable Access means primarily using digital, when digital course material options exist. This means that without a tech solution, the campus IT team has to quickly accomplish LMS integration with 100’s of publishers or providers to enable student access.


Beyond Inclusive and Equitable Access: Are there other options?

Now that Inclusive and Equitable Access have been established for some time, what’s up next? Drawing from the elements that work best for their campus and students, many colleges are creating their own institutional models for digital course materials. Campus stores, IT teams, and Academic leaders are beginning to take control of their digital transformation goals and design their own digital affordability and access experience for their students and faculty.

How are they doing this? They start with the core elements common to all 3 models, which are:

  1. Digital format as the primary option, whenever it’s available
  2. Prices that are lower than any available off-campus
  3. Faculty freedom to choose their required course materials
  4. Student access to course materials on day 1 of class

Then they double-down on customizing their digital course materials program to boost success on their particular strategic goals.

Here are some examples:

Affordability: To ensure the biggest savings for the most students, a campus will go beyond the IA course-by-course approach. They do this by enabling “digital first” choices for all adopted course materials through all courses in their LMS. This increased digital volume ensures the lowest cost option is clearly available on day 1 of class for all students.

Equity: Campuses are connecting the digital course materials integrated in their LMS to either student account billing or purchase through their store. This ensures students can use campus-based funds like Financial Aid, Pell Grants and scholarships to pay for their low-cost course materials.

Digital Experience: Campuses are eliminating access codes and manual registration processes that have historically caused digital access problems for faculty and students. Instead, they use new automated LMS integration technology to automatically verify and register students into their learning products and eBooks. Both faculty and students get one instant access experience for all their course materials.

Scale & IT Resources: Instead of doing LMS integrations with hundreds of publishers and products, campuses are saving time and increasing student success by connecting all products through a single LMS integration platform like Willo Labs.

Student Success: This all adds up to more access to course materials, more often. It’s a simple and immediate way to increase grades and persistence for all students, including first generation college students.


Willo Works With Any Business Model

As champions of student equity, we believe that student success starts with equal, affordable access to course materials. Willo is the world’s first fully automated LMS integration platform that gives campuses control of their digital learning access.

With just a single campus connection, Willo centralizes all courseware in one place – automatically. Any digital materials, any LMS, any business model. No access codes necessary.

Whether you opt to use Inclusive Access, Equitable Access, traditional student purchasing, or a unique Institutional billing model, Willo offers single access for a superior digital learning experience.

Our IA and EA solutions make it easy for students to get their course materials on campus and at the lowest price – always.

Willo gives you the power to do what no other platform can: 

  • Save time with a one-step setup. 
  • Ensure equal, affordable access for all students, always with the ability to use campus-based funds. 
  • Deliver day-one learning with any purchase model
  • Protect student data with consent and anonymization 

Ready to see how Willo can work for you?

Book a demo with us to learn more.