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What is "Inclusive Access"? 

Inclusive Access, sometimes referred to as Equitable Access, is a course content-delivery model that provides students with day-one access to course materials from publishers and vendors at reduced costs compared to new print materials. These programs go by a variety of different names by vendors: Inclusive Access, Macmillan Learning, Follett ACCESS, First Day Complete, Day One, Equitable Access, and Immediate Access, just to name a few.

There are two primary models:

  • Flat-Fee model – Students are charged a fixed cost based on the number of units or credit hours, regardless of the actual cost of their exact materials. 
  • Course-by-Course model – Students in participating courses are billed for the cost of their assigned materials.  Prices are set by publishers or vendors and opt-out may be available.

An inclusive access program may or may not be the best option for your students.  It’s important for administrators and faculty to understand all the implications that an inclusive access program will have on their students and their pedagogy. The table below outlines some of the pros and cons of “Inclusive Access” models.  

Pros Cons Other Considerations
All students have access to the same materials the first day of class.   Achieves equitability.  Studies indicate that this contributes to student success.
Course materials are discounted from retail. Purported savings based on new retail cost is deceiving.  Students who have financial need may still find this to be a more expensive option. Students struggling financially will find other ways to access their class materials – rent, buy used, use the library’s copy, borrow from a friend.  The student may also opt out of purchasing the course materials, which impacts grades and retention. Students are also unable to resell a text and recoup a portion of their expenditure.
  Students lose access to materials after the class. Students can no longer refer to materials after the end of the class.  If another class uses the same materials, they would be charged again.
Easy for faculty to enroll. Can limit faculty options for choosing course materials. Inclusive access programs are often limited regarding publisher(s) and or text(s).
Students do have the option to opt-out. Deadlines for opting-out are often only a couple of weeks long.  Opting-out may not really be an option if the platform is how homework is distributed. If a student has to withdraw from a class after the deadline (often about 2 weeks), they do not receive a refund. 
  Companies collect data about student and faculty behavior, which has privacy implications. Universities must be careful about privacy policies and should consider if material requires a homework platform that would violate FERPA or some other student privacy policies/laws.

What questions should campuses ask about Inclusive Access?


  1. What methodology is used to calculate student savings for Inclusive Access, and does it consider the price of used books?

  2. Are students asked for consent before being charged for Inclusive Access, or are they automatically charged?

  3. If a student opts out of Inclusive Access, will they still be able to complete their required coursework?

  4. Are students informed about the amount of the Inclusive Access charge at the time they register for courses?

  5. Are students informed about the terms of service of digital textbooks at the time they register for courses?

  6. What assurances are there from vendors that textbook prices will not skyrocket all over again?

  7. What long-term strategy is in place to ensure that Inclusive Access does not become a runaway fee or line item?

  8. Are vendors demanding any quotas for the number of students billed that can create negative incentives?

  9. What support is in place for students who still cannot afford Inclusive Access materials?

  10. Has Inclusive Access been formally consulted with the student government and faculty senate? 

Source: Inclusive Access Fact Sheet, by Inclusive, licensed under a CC BY 4.0. license.

Understanding Inclusive Access: Resources

The following articles, written by Taylor Swaak, are part of a Chronicle of Higher Education three-part series on courseware. Courseware is often, though not always, part of automatic textbook billing packages:

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