Saying “no” to publisher digital learning solutions

Publishers have developed content rich web-based learning solutions for students that please the senses and improve overall scores. They save time for the instructors as well. But, are they all they are cracked up to be…yet?

While I am a proponent of using publisher content that is freely available to augment my online courses, I am not a huge proponent of their digital learning solutions for several key reasons.

  1. Errors or inaccuracies with answers and the fact that the issue will not be resolved with your class.
  2. Glitches and system  “downtime.”
  3. The inaccessibility of the learning solution.
  4. Having to input grades into a LMS manually from the publisher learning solution.

When I first came across the digital learning solution for my textbook, I thought it was the next best thing to sliced bread. But after using it for several terms, I became quite frustrated and so did my students. I was constantly having to call in and have errors fixed.  My students were confused because they did not know whether their answers were actually correct or not.

When I began development on my online course, I  found that these “solutions” were not that accessible for students with disabilities. So, I decided  enough was enough. I came up with my own “learning solution” right in my LMS. This way, I was able to minimize those four issues I listed above.

I first considered what fundamental activities that publisher learning solutions provided, that work so well. I found self-assessments and auto-graded homework to be the two key features.  I then thought, how can I go about making self-assessments or providing them. My textbook fortunately had a couple of self-assessment activities that did not require student purchase of a digital learning solution.  But I wanted more.  Luckily my textbook has gone through a number of editions, so I utilized all the available test banks and created my own “Self-Quizzes” using Respondus StudyMate.  Most of the activities are keyboard accessible and they provide a different format than the D2L Quiz Tool.

As for Homework, I generally assign some analytical problems from the end of chapter problem sets. I utilized the D2L Quiz tool to create fill-in-the-blank multi-part questions that could be auto-graded. For each question, I would leave detailed feedback on how to work through the problem (not the answers) and the students can take a second attempt to raise their scores.

If I could recreate the instructor content from the test-banks, solutions manuals, and instructor manuals to provide a similar experience without the need for another learning solution besides D2L, I was saving myself headaches. I can now fix errors as they came to my attention.  This reduces the number assignments I must manually re-grade and also minimizes the number of students who may be confused by an error.  I only have to worry about my D2L being “down”, I do not have to worry too much about accessibility*, and I no longer have to transfer grades over either.

*Desire2Learn is considered to be one of the most accessible learning management systems available (along with Moodle).  Read the report A Comparison of Learning Management System Accessibility or view the related PowerPoint Presentation for more information.


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