Since the early days of formal education, college students have lugged hard-backed books to and from class. Over time, these books have gotten thicker, heavier, and more expensive causing students back pain and financial difficulty.
In the Spring of 2019, Cleveland State Community College took a stand against this with
the Direct Education Initiative. Part of a statewide initiative, the DEI allows students to
trade in their heavy, expensive textbooks for cost-effective digital versions that fit in their
“This type of digital technology is the wave of the future, and more people are using it
today,” said Dr. Barsha Pickell, interim vice president of Teaching and Learning at CSCC. “We
know that students have higher success rates if they have textbooks and class
resources right away, and this program offers just that.”
To date, more than 4,700 students have benefited from DEI at CSCC, saving
The program is simple. Students enroll in classes as usual, and when they pay tuition,
the DEI textbooks are included in the cost. Next, students drop by the CSCC Bookstore to get a
unique code. Once they have this code, students can access their DEI books on their phones,
computers, and other devices. Students who prefer physical books can opt out of the program
and purchase physical books.
Initially, assistant professor of speech Laurie Rowland felt a mixture of nervousness and
excitement. She wanted to save students money and make the materials more readily
available, but she had nagging doubts that often accompany new advances. Those doubts were
soon forgotten, as Ms. Rowland saw the incredible benefits for herself.
“Digital textbooks are accessible and inexpensive, and they support student learning,”
Ms.Rowland said. “For the first time in my teaching career, students aren’t dropping my class
or playing catch-up because they can’t afford the book, bought the wrong one, or didn’t receive
it until halfway through the semester. DEI has changed the student experience immediately. It
As one of the first four faculty members to participate in DEI, Ms. Rowland expects more
classes to utilize these digital textbooks and improve student outcomes as a result. Whereas a
physical textbook costs $90 or more, the same book through DEI is only $35. Because students
aren’t interested in accumulating debt and most are accustomed to reading and researching on
electronic devices, DEI’s impact will likely continue to grow in the coming years.
An additional perk is the ability to listen to the textbooks. For students on the go and
those who are auditory learners, this increases their ability to participate in class. Because now,
they can listen to the textbook being read as they drive to campus, walk at the park, or relax at
home. So when it’s time for class, students can discuss what they read instead of being left out
of conversations and getting further behind.
For CSCC student Brooke Bargeron, DEI has been a welcome change. A 2019 graduate
of Polk County High School, this is her first experience with digital textbooks. “Digital textbooks
are easier on the shoulders and the wallet. It’s also more reliable,” she said,” because you order
the book you need and have it right then on your computer. Most of our assignments are
online, and having my books available at the same place is a huge benefit.”
If you are interested in enrolling in a program at CSCC, applications for spring semester will be accepted through January 8. For more information, contact CSCC at 423-472-7141 or visit the college online at ClevelandStateCC.edu. CSCC is the College System of Tennessee’s College of the Year for 2019. The local institution received the Statewide Outstanding Achievement Recognition, or SOAR, Award after being named the College of the Year honor during an awards ceremony last March.
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving more than 110,000 students.