November 16, 2017

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Digital Class Sets Improve Return On Investment & Maximize Classroom Time

Districts & Schools of All Shapes and Sizes are Embracing Ebooks for ELA

Stacks of print texts have served as the cornerstone of the K-12 English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum for generations. While these traditional class sets have undoubtedly helped educate and instill a love for reading and learning in students, they come with significant drawbacks.

Most notably, damaged, lost, and stolen books lead to high annual replacement costs, and almost double the total investment over the course of a five-year period. The tedious procurement and check out process can hinder progress, and oftentimes, a limited number of copies requires classroom time be devoted to reading, and not discussion or other critical thinking exercises.

It is for those reasons—and more—that districts and schools of all shapes and sizes are making the important shift from print to digital class sets.

“Digital class sets help schools boost long-term cost effectiveness and fully leverage devices—both 1:1 and student owned,” OverDrive Education Director Herb Miller, Ed. M., said. “The anytime, anywhere access of ebooks allows educators to maximize classroom time and more deeply engage students in reading while empowering their experience with interactive tools.”

Let’s take a detailed look at the return on investment (ROI) breakdown between print and digital class sets and hear how the St. Vrain Valley School District (CO) has responded to the introduction of ebooks for ELA.

Eliminating Staggering Replacement Costs

Miller walked us through a typical print class set scenario using Lois Lowry’s The Giver. If the district bought 300 copies at $7 each, they would spend $2,100 in Year 1. With estimated annual replacements costs of 20 percent, they would spend $420 per year in Years 2-5, for a total of investment $3,780.

“Schools have been paying these staggering replacement costs for so long that they’ve come to be viewed as inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” Miller said.

Purchasing 300 digital copies of the same title at $10 each produces a $3,000 investment. The district would have these ebooks in perpetuity with no replacement costs, saving $780, Miller explained. “Digital class sets provide far superior ROI compared to their print counterparts and are one of the best ways schools can ensure they’re making the best use of their funds.”

Districts are starting off by selecting a few titles to take digital, or providing some digital options to gauge student preference. Dollars formerly earmarked for print replacement costs are commonly used to fund this first foray into digital class sets.

“Based on usage—which we’ve seen is high—many schools and districts then purchase more digital, as opposed to print in the next year,” he noted, “as we’re seeing many more students actually come to class having read the book if they have the digital option.”

“there’s been so many doors that have been opened for us…”

Located north of Denver, St. Vrain is Colorado’s seventh-largest school district, serving 32,000 PreK-12 students in 55 schools. Concurrent with the implementation of an extensive 1:1 initiative, the district adopted a new secondary ELA curriculum, with ebooks replacing print. This involved the purchase of 350 copies of 12 titles for each grade 6-12, including Island of the Blue DolphinsWonderThe Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963Animal Farm, and Into Thin Air.

“It’s brought a lot of efficiency to my classroom on the technical side of things,” sixth grade teacher Laura Hernandez said. “Checking in and out titles, we used to do it one book at a time, and they’d get lost or damaged or forgotten at home. It’s really taken all of that out.”

Eighth grade teacher Kristine Hagemeyer is among those who began integrating the “flipped classroom” model in which reading is assigned outside the classroom so group activities can be conducted during class time. This previously wasn’t possible when limited copies of print texts had to be confined to the classroom.

“It’s changed things so much, to the point that we can teach more. We can cover more content and really dive in and get more in depth,” she said. “I just feel that there’s been so many doors that have been opened for us to reach those higher levels.”

Seventh grade teacher Carrie Miller agreed. “A digital text will augment our conversations and augment their learning, and promote them to be more naturally engaged readers…in a way that a physical book can’t.”

JT, a sixth grader, called out eBooks’ highlighting, notetaking and bookmarking tools and the built-in dictionary. He summed up the excitement felt by students from across St. Vrain around the district’s digital shift.

“It’s a whole new way to read,” he said.

Creating an ELA Ebook Solution Designed for Long-Term Success

It’s easy to see why digital class sets have become such a growing trend. In fact, a nationwide survey found going digital in ELA to be the area K-12 administrators believe to be most beneficial to supporting learning.

Miller stressed that the key to fully realizing the transformative benefits of digital class sets is identifying the right partner. “Every district and school is unique,” he said. “To create an ELA eBook solution designed for long-term success, districts and schools need a partner that specializes in aligning budget considerations, content needs and students and educator expectations.”


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