The TIPping Point - Textbook Information Provisioning

By Kim Mann, Communications Officer, Student Financial Services

Dept of Education logoMIT has launched the Textbook Information Provisioning (TIP) project inspired by a federal provision in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) in order to continue to champion the cause of affordable course materials and open educational resources. This provision states that institutions must disclose specific information on required and recommended reading (which is primarily, but not exclusively textbooks), such as the ISBN and book’s list purchase price on all Internet based course schedules effective July 1, 2010.

As a recognized leader for open educational resources and OpenCourseWare, MIT is creating a simple process for faculty submission and student retrieval of the required textbook information. The vision of the TIP project is to maximize our existing infrastructure and to institutionalize the oversight of this process at the school/department level.

The TIP project is co-sponsored by Dan Hastings, Dean of Undergraduate Education and Steve Lerman, Vice Chancellor and Dean of Graduate Education, with business sponsorship from Betsy Hicks, Executive Director, SFS. Dan and Steve also co-chair the TIP Steering Committee comprising Associate Deans of the five Schools, the Registrar, and the Director of Libraries. The project team is led by Greg Che, Associate Director, SFS and Babi Mitra, Associate Director, OEIT and draws its membership from the Libraries, SFS and IS&T (SAIS, Stellar, Data Warehouse).

During the discovery phase, the TIP project team benchmarked with several peer institutions and received input from a cross-section of stakeholders such as faculty, faculty committees, students, UA, GSC, student project teams (i.e. Coursepicker and Bookpicker), the Libraries, Stellar, Registrar’s Office, Academic administrators, the Office of the General Counsel and the COOP.

The challenges in the current system are that the faculty submit textbook information to both the COOP and to the Libraries through a variety of avenues including internal forms, databases, COOP forms, web forms, Stellar, email and/or phone. Students are not always given timely access to their required textbook information and they are often unaware of their required texts until registration and have less time to compare prices. The project team is working cooperatively to bridge the reality between the time when faculty ordinarily decide on their required and recommended textbooks, and how much advance notice students need to get that information in order to get the ‘best’ deal possible.

The project team is leveraging the existing Online Textbook Information (OTI) web service, in addition to enhancing the Library Reserve form and modifying the Online Subject Listing to meet the goals of this project. The MIT Subject Listing & Schedule will be considered the official course schedule, while integrating with other internal systems such as Stellar, student projects such as Coursepicker and Bookpicker and external systems such as the COOP so that these systems can access the new data.

One of the expected benefits from this project is simplification of workflow and business processes. There will be one form for faculty to enter their information on required and recommended reading materials and this data will be centralized in the Data Warehouse for easy access by both internal and external systems. Courses already in the system will be pre-populated with the textbook information for future semesters, reducing the effort required in entering data. Students, while continuing to have the option to access information from multiple places, could now go to the MIT Subject Listing & Schedule as their one-stop source.

This project is scheduled to Go Live in June 2010.