Post-pandemic trends in U.S. Higher Education Digital and OER Textbook Adoptions

Concurrent Session 4

Brief Abstract

The use of digital materials in higher education classrooms is on the rise. Join us for a closer look at this transition from physical, print materials to a digital-first future over the last decade. We’ll discuss how we got here, and what this might mean for the future of education.


Dr. Jeff Seaman is Director of Bay Vie Analytics. He has worked in education information technology for over 20 years, and holds degrees in Demography/Statistics, Sociology, Electrical Engineering, and Housing, all from Cornell University. He has taught at several colleges and universities, including Cornell University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and Babson College. Dr. Seaman created and ran the Computing Resource Center and served as Associate Vice Provost for Computing for the University of Pennsylvania and as Chief Information Officer for Lesley University. His industry experience includes serving as Chief Technology Officer at and as the Vice President of Engineering for Vista Associates. Dr. Seaman has been conducting research in the impact of technology on higher education and K-12 for over a decade, beginning with comprehensive national studies of technology use in U.S. Higher Education. Dr. Seaman has served on academic technology advisory boards for a number of information technology companies including Apple Computer, IBM, and Microsoft.

Extended Abstract

This presentation will review the rise of digital textbooks in higher education in the United States. The presentation draws information from research conducted by Bay View Analytics, and the Brian Murphy Group’s database on adoption and book-in-use data at higher education institutions.

Over the last decade, higher education faculty have transitioned from primarily using print and physical materials in their classrooms, to employing more digital tools. The transition covers all classroom materials, including homework, textbooks, quizzes, and lectures. Textbooks remain the core component of classroom materials, and form the focus of our investigation.

Traditionally, textbooks have been imagined as a large print book, the primary source of material used by students during their course. This view is no longer entirely accurate. The required textbook is now increasingly found in a digital format, allowing for interactive designs integrated directly with other digital classroom tools. There is no single format of textbook, with dozens or more formats and options existing for even a single course type.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced almost all classrooms to switch to emergency remote and online learning, often requiring the quick adoption of digital tools and accelerating the aforementioned adoption of digital textbooks. While many classrooms have returned to in-person instruction, the adoption and use of digital materials, including textbooks, has remained above pre-pandemic levels and is expected to continue to grow.

The rise of digital textbooks has not been uniform across all classrooms. The rates of adoption have varied based on the course level, course subject, institution type, and geographical region. Additionally, there have been different rates of adoption for different types of digital materials like inclusive access and open educational resources (OER).

Participants will:

1)             Learn the trends of digital and print textbook adoption in high education classrooms through 2022

2)             Understand the classroom and faculty characteristics that impact digital textbook adoption

3)             Understand the trends in OER awareness and use

4)         Learn how the pandemic impacted the use of digital and OER materials

5)             See how digital adoption trends are expected to continue into the near future

Bay View Analytics has been tracking adoption patterns in teaching material since 2009. Our work, supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, includes the factors driving awareness and adoption of Open Educational Resources in higher education.. All reports use responses from nationally-representative samples of higher education administrators and faculty members from all fifty states. In total, our results incorporate answers from over 26,000 respondents across 10 surveys.

The Brian Murphy Group provides enterprise grade technology solutions to the higher education publishing market to drive operational efficiency, profitability and achievement of strategic goals. Our proprietary technology powers the Discovery Higher Ed platform, a library of US text book adoption data the likes of which has never before been available. We focus on raising the profile and prestige of every title, significantly increasing adoptions in all educational markets.