Dustin Steinhoff, News Editor
The AutoAccess service, an automatic opt-in for electronic course books, can provide University of Missouri–St. Louis students textbooks at lower costs in many cases. The service allows instant access to textbooks, but the ability for students to opt out of the program and what services a publisher provides can complicate how a course operates.
AutoAccess automatically provides students the required reading material when they enroll in the course. This means if a student wishes to buy or rent the course’s reading materials from a different source, the student must opt out of the program.
Jill Alexander, associate teaching professor and Public Relations certificate coordinator, used AutoAccess for one of her courses last semester and is using it for two courses this semester. Alexander cites the costs of physical books, especially the new editions, as a major reason for using AutoAccess.
“It is less expensive for students. The cost of paper books is quite high so for ‘Intro to PR’ for example, I was told that a new edition was coming out. When a new edition comes out, it often means you cannot get a rental or used book because it is the first time it is out. I switched to AutoAccess so that when the new book came out, students would not be forced to buy a new version of the book.”
If a professor decides they would like to incorporate AutoAccess into their course, Amy Mosley, the AutoAccess coordinator, helps to set the program up with the professor. However, not all publishers and textbooks are available through AutoAccess, which can make the process a bit more tricky.
“I understand it is confusing for students and it is just as confusing for faculty,” Alexander said. “It is an easy process as far as letting them know you want the e-book versus a paper book. It gets more confusing when it is a book that is available from a publisher as an e-book that is not in AutoAccess.”
The other services that can be provided by AutoAccess vary from publisher to publisher. Some publishers offer self studies after the readings, others may offer online quizzes through their platform and some may offer just the e-book.
“There is a wide range [of services] depending on what textbook you are using and what publisher has published that textbook,” Alexander said.
Alexander is currently using a McGraw Hill textbook through AutoAccess that offers quizzes through the company’s platform. Alexander has implemented a Connect program that has the ability to automatically populate the gradebook in Canvas with scores from assignments and quizzes the professor has created and published in the system. While these are helpful features, the grading process becomes difficult when student opt out of AutoAccess.
“If the student opts out of AutoAccess because they prefer a paper book, then all of a sudden they do not have access to the quizzes. The publisher does sell access to just their Connect system, but then that makes it more expensive for the student, which kind of defeats the purpose of using an AutoAccess book,” Alexander said.
In order to allow all students with or without AutoAccess to take the course quizzes, Alexander moved all of the quizzes to where all students could access them.
“I moved all of the quizzes to Canvas and removed them from the McGraw Hill platform. This way the students that have a paper book have access to the quizzes and the students that are using the e-book also have access to the quiz,” Alexander said.
“In ‘Intro to Public Speaking,’ the publisher provided all of these videos that match the material. I can pull them up in class because they use AutoAccess and the videos are in Connect,” Alexander said. “There’s no way one professor could have the funding to produce the videos this way.”
AutoAccess has become more popular at UMSL since Mun Choi, president of the University of Missouri system, wanted to find ways to reduce costs for students and encouraged faculty members to try and find ways to reduce the cost of materials if possible.
UMSL students had until the Sep. 4 deadline to opt out of their AutoAccess course material. This was also the deadline for students who had previously opted out of their AutoAccess materials to opt back in. Students received an email from the Triton Store reminding them of this deadline on Aug. 30.