The Inclusive Access model for course materials in higher education continues to offer many benefits to students and providers. However, the rapid expansion of these programs – with more courses and students participating – often leaves campus staff struggling to manage the complexities related to billing, access and appropriate oversight.
At Watchman, we understand the challenges in managing Inclusive Access.
In this post, we describe some of the benefits and complications of Inclusive Access, or IA, and offer a few of our latest innovations for solving billing issues that have become apparent as IA has scaled dramatically in an era when going contactless has become so critical.
The many benefits of Inclusive Access programs for students are easy to understand.
Today, more high-quality digital course materials are available to students than ever before. The cost of this digital content has also fallen significantly in comparison to print alternatives. Most importantly, students participating in Inclusive Access can begin using their course materials on the first day of class. No need to go to the campus bookstore, or delay buying books for lack of funds. Inclusive Access is actually helping students stay on track in their courses and on the path to graduation
Promoting student success is core to the mission of education providers. Yet, the fast growing popularity of IA programs can leave campus administrators searching for ways to simplify billing, and catch up.
That’s where Watchman can help.
As departments add courses and sections to IA programs, normal student activity produces an exponential increase to the amount of charges and refunds that impact student accounts. This includes drop/add activity, opt-ins and opt-outs, and the inevitable “special cases” when IA courses are added past the deadline or when students make schedule changes after the end of the drop/add period.
There are also various other sources of student financial aid that students want to apply to IA charges. These third-party sponsored accounts are often administered by the campus store, and not through the bursar’s office.
To solve many of these IA problems, Watchman introduced our Automated IA Billing solution. It saves meaningful time and effort for both the campus store staff and the student accounts team.
Now all student actions that impact the billing for their Inclusive Access participation can be matched by automated functionality – including effortlessly updating student accounts for drop/adds or opt-ins/opt-outs.
Watchman also enables IA charges to be applied to other sources of third-party aid that might be managed through the campus store rather than the bursar’s office. Learn more about our Sponsored Account Management module (SAM) to see how we give the campus store the resources needed to help students access & utilize different sources of aid to acquire their course materials prior to the start of classes.
As a result, as Automated IA Billing constantly updates, you also see improvements in student satisfaction, by reducing many of the questions that arise from students as they monitor their bursar accounts.
As part of the this cutting-edge process, Automated IA Billing also connects other providers involved in Inclusive Access services. This is done through your Campus Student Information System and powered by Watchman’s Student Education Payments platform, or STEP. STEP is the first platform of its kind to solve this complex Inclusive Access billing challenge.
Watchman works in cooperation with your IA services provider (such as Verba VitalSource or RedShelf) to customize their daily billing file to meet the specific needs of your campus. (We’re excited to be the Preferred Digital Partner for Verba VitalSource through our partnership with them.)
Most students need to have charges or refunds posted to their bursar account using the codes and descriptions provided by the student accounts office – tailored to specifics for each school and student information system – but what about the students who have additional sources of aid managed by the campus store?
The STEP platform is designed to handle that, too. Students who are sponsored by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the Office of Rehabilitation, Athletics, or any other scholarship or available fund source will see those funds applied (by school-specified priority) before any balance is applied to their student account in the bursar’s office. Watchman understands the complexity of sponsored accounts and the rules associated with the use of those funds. So whether those funds can only be used for certain items (potentially based on course material adoptions, for example), or need to be sales tax exempt, you’ll remain compliant.
Even better, we’ve automated the reporting and reconciliation process, making it easy to compare student charges from and to multiple sources with each other and with registration data. This gives you complete visibility and oversight over your Inclusive Access programs.
Watchman’s integrated and automated process for tracking IA charges, coupled with robust dashboard reports, makes scaling your Inclusive Access programs both easy and comprehensive.
Our Watchman Automated IA Billing system helps you quickly see and take advantage of the benefits, both to your campus staff and to your students.
For details on how our Automated IA Billing system works, or about other services from Watchman, please contact us.
We offer great ideas on how to improve your Inclusive Access programs and your user experiences.
Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org