Presidential transitions are challenging for everyone--the new campus leader and the staff. Regardless of the challenge, the more that can be done to establish a sense of common purpose, trust, and understanding, the smoother the transition.
Presidential transitions are challenging for everyone--the new campus leader and the staff. Regardless of the challenge, the more that can be done to establish a sense of common purpose, trust, and understanding, the smoother the transition.
Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters, the ongoing threats of terrorism, and the auditing profession's increased emphasis on business continuity planning have captured the attention of higher education executives.
Colleges and universities provide a setting for the contemplative life. The word "school" is derived from the Greek schole, meaning leisure. Efficiency is not always prized on campus, and this spirit has translated to fiscal matters.
Students and staff located at the Thailand campuses of two U.S. universities are safe, say officials. Richard Meyers, president of Webster University in St.
Oxford, Yale and Stanford closed their joint not-for-profit online venture, AllLearn, Alliance for Lifelong Learning, citing insufficient enrolments and funding as the primary reasons.
Rich Hershman found himself in the usually welcoming Commonwealth of Virginia when he experienced the conversation that many bookstore managers and administrators dread.
Hershman, director of government relations for the National Association of College Stores, had set up a meeting with a legislator to talk textbook pricing. The legislator told Hershman that his daughter, a college student, was buying all of her textbooks from her school's campus store, then finding and purchasing as many of the same books as possible online-before returning the doubles back to the campus store.
"That's got to be killing you guys," the legislator said. Hershman stopped himself from launching into a lecture. "I wanted to say that it's also contributing to higher costs in higher education," Hershman recalls. "You are going to find the most liberal return policies around at college stores."
Faced with continually growing online competition, college store directors should by no means overhaul their business models. Nor should administrators expect to reap great profits from their campus stores; the average margin on course books for college stores is about 26 percent, according to NACS.
Yet the continuing emergence of websites that provide cheap access to textbooks, as well as other shifts in the market, mean that it's time for college stores to get serious about batting back the competition.
According to a recent survey conducted by Follett Higher Education Group, which runs more than 750 college stores and sells used books and other services to independents, about 19 percent of students surveyed opted to buy at least one book online. According to the same survey, about 11 percent of all textbooks are purchased online (including from a college store's site).
"We still think there's room for it to grow," says Gary Shapiro, senior vice president of intellectual property for Follett, referring to the percentage of books purchased online. "We're saying somewhere between 15 and 20 percent is where it's going to start to level out." Online competitors won't likely overtake campus stores, but they can take a sizable bite out of business. "The 11 percent is roughly $700 million," says Shapiro. "A small percentage of a large number is still a large number."
Over the last year, national media attention and public statements from legislators and policymakers haven't exactly helped the situation for campus bookstores. A July 13 article in The Washington Post mentioned six websites at which students could try to find discounted books (www.campusbookswap.com, www.textbookx.com, www.half.com, www.bigwords.com, www.bestbookbuys.com, and www.amazon.co.uk).
Add in last year's Government Accountability Office report, which found that textbook prices have increased at twice the rate of inflation, and college stores have had some public relations trials on their hands.
Ready to move forward, college stores face new opportunities to keep students coming through their doors. Here are 20 strategies being put to use by bookstore directors and administrators around the country. Consider how each could help keep your textbook business turning.
Pamela Mills has seen the online enemy firsthand and has found ways to combat it. "There is an increase in folks who want the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and we know why they're doing that," says Mills, director of the CU Book Store at the University of Colorado. "They want to go look online."
While it's not the bookstore's job to police whether faculty point students toward online sources, the CU Book Store has a policy that faculty members must give their textbook adoption information to the store, says Mills. For most faculty that is a given, she says-but having the policy in place re-emphasizes current practice and lets people know the importance of turning in their lists.
Reaching out to faculty members represents a priority for many store directors. The University of Colorado's bookstore staff produces an annual fair for new faculty. "It's a one-stop shop," says Mills. "They get information that they might not have otherwise picked up, and they get it all in one place. It also gives us a chance to see who they are, talk to them, and hand them information from the bookstore specifically that talks about adoption and why we need to do what we do."
While CU hasn't tracked data on the success of the faculty fair sponsorship, Mills believes that new faculty members who have attended the fair are more receptive to the bookstore's adoption deadlines in subsequent years.
Peg Godwin, manager of the University of Idaho Bookstore and a member of the Board of Trustees for NACS, works upward with administrators as well as outward with faculty members. "We contribute in the range of $600,000 a year to the institution, and we are an $8 million store," she says. "So it's important for us to talk with the administration about how to position the bookstore so the faculty is engaged with us and is doing business with us, as opposed to doing side deals here and there."
Godwin and bookstore staffers also like to identify professors who are utilizing interesting course materials and models, such as e-books. The bookstore team then tries to support those models and connect with faculty on the content they're looking for, says Godwin. That helps keep the bookstore relevant.
For the University of Delaware Bookstore, part of a proactive approach has been getting student government involved in communicating with faculty.
"Students have become involved in getting orders for us," says Bookstore Manager Jennifer Galt. Members of the Delaware Undergraduate Student Congress have sent letters to faculty members explaining to them that getting adoption orders in (and in on time) would help all students get more money for their books during buyback.
Textbook adoption timelines play critical roles for stores and students alike. When faculty members get their book orders in late, bookstore managers and directors have their hands tied in terms of how many used books they can buy back from students. "Getting adoption out of the faculty members' minds and into our hands is one of our greatest challenges timing-wise," says Mike Tolly, director of course materials for Follett Higher Education Group. Follett encourages staff at its campus stores to gain faculty support, whether by sponsoring guest speakers in classes or offering scholarships.
Follett also teaches staff at its stores to run a program called "One-A-Day," based on the multivitamin concept. The goal: for bookstore managers and staff members to have at least one conversation with a faculty member each day. "It builds bonds and influences how they are talking to students," says Gary Shapiro, senior vice president of intellectual properties.
Behind the drive to compete lies the need to provide stellar service to customers. Textbook reservation programs, in which students go on the bookstore's website in advance of the semester and reserve course materials to be packaged either for pickup on campus or delivery to dorms or apartments, go a long way in creating that satisfaction.
Many bookstore directors are working on developing programs like the one at Gettysburg College (Pa.), which makes the textbook purchase process neat and easy by delivering textbooks right to students' rooms or apartments. Director Kimberly Wolf attributes the quality of her store's program in part to the college's size (about 2,500 students). Stores on larger campuses might not have the ability to deliver, but they can still create impressive programs that have books bundled and ready in store when students arrive.
Prospective students and incoming freshmen can be perfect targets for bookstore promotional campaigns. Michelle Froese, public relations manager for Student and Auxiliary Services at the University of Missouri-Columbia, says bookstores should be stops on campus tours. She also notes that during orientation at Mizzou, the bookstore provides canvas bags for incoming students. "It's free advertising," says Froese. "I love to see 5,000 students going through summer welcome walking around with their bookstore bags."
When students prepare for a new semester they also do some online research. With that in mind, Nebraska Book Company, which operates about 140 campus stores and sells books to 2,500 college bookstores nationwide, recently launched a partnership with Pick-a-Prof, a website that collects student reviews of faculty members.
Through the partnership, students can order textbooks from the campus bookstore right when they choose their courses. If the bookstore uses NBC's CampusHub system, students have the ability to click through to the school's online store, where the correct textbooks are automatically populated into a shopping cart.
Other marketing opportunities have arisen from the partnership. When Pick-a-Prof e-mails students to remind them to provide feedback on professors, the note includes a message urging them to participate in buyback and to buy next semester's books.
Aggressive on the internet front, Nebraska Book Company is also looking into the existing campus blogging community as a realm for promoting campus stores, according to Kevin Gish, vice president of campus relations for NBC. "It's yet another internet tool to drive traffic toward the store," he notes.
"We are encouraging sellers to have a very effective website," says Sue Reidman, NBC vice president of corporate communications. "You want to make sure that you have a site that is driving [students] to purchase there, as opposed to going to Amazon or Half.com."
Beyond blogs, a store's website must have other ways to pull customers in. The University of Idaho Bookstore maintains a robust website that offers a deep level of service. The site's "textbook express" function allows students to type in their course registration information so that a list of the books they need will pop up on screen.
Once students see their lists, they encounter several options in terms of what type of texts to buy. "We are adding a digital component, working with Nebraska Book," notes Godwin, the bookstore's manager. "It's essential that the student has a choice to buy a digital version of the book, that's generally priced around the price of a used book. It is an option that's out there and we need to test that market."
Speaking of digital books, DeVry University, one of Follett Higher Education Group's biggest customers, has already moved all of its online students to digital versions of textbooks, or e-books. Follett's online arm, eFollett, has handled more than two million chapter downloads over the last 18 months-the equivalent of 100,000 units sold, according to Shapiro.
Campus stores might want to get ready for growth in the e-book sector. "We've done a lot of research with students on their desire for e-information," says Shapiro. "In a nutshell, we think that between 10 and 15 percent prefer a digital product over a print product. But we think that upwards of 40 percent might be interested in it."
"Right now the critical thing to do is to offer students an option," he adds. "Do they want it new, used, digital, digital by chapter? Offering more choices to the students will keep a lot of business in the store."
At the University of Delaware, old-school customer service strategies have been expanded in recent years. Here's a simple but valuable one: Be where the customer is.
During buyback, bookstore staffers set up remote buyback locations in key spots on campus. A mobile buyback van then travels around to make the process of selling back even more convenient. "It gives us some flexibility to get to where the students are on a particular day and time," says Galt, the bookstore manager.
Price undoubtedly motivates many students more than anything. Last year, with support from top administration, Galt helped institute a lowest-price guarantee for all textbooks sold by the University of Delaware Bookstore. Now, if a student finds a book at a lower price at a brick-and-mortar competitor (but not online), the bookstore will match that lower price-and then reduce the tickets on any remaining copies in the store.
Clearly the folks running the University of Delaware Bookstore know that money talks: They recently opted to double the money they offer students for used books during buyback. "In the past year, primarily because of lowest-price guarantee and the doubled price for buyback, we've seen our sales improve significantly," says Barbara L. Kreppel, the university's associate vice president for Administrative Services. "Much of this is thinking in the same way as any kind of retail. You have to know what your customer wants, be where they are. It would be easy for us to be the only game in town, but we're not."
"We thought it seemed like a lot of these students who would buy online were the ones who would try to be the first ones to sell back," says Doug Mason, manager of the Brigham Young University-Idaho University Bookstore. In 2005, the university launched a Textbook Loyalty Program that tracks student buying. Bookstore staffers swipe students' I-cards when books are purchased, and again during buyback. Students who purchased from the store are given the opportunity to sell their books back sooner, and for more money.
According to Mason, the program has improved customer attitudes and had a positive impact on market share. In a survey, 75 percent of students said they liked the idea.
As more people go online to buy and sell books, campus store directors are concerned about a diminishing supply of used books. Wolf of Gettysburg College browses online competitors to ramp up her own inventory of used books. Since classes at Gettysburg tend to be small, Wolf has been able to locate books to fill many faculty requests.
Some folks take Wolf's strategy further: At a recent conference, Wolf heard one bookstore director talk about how he peruses websites to find cheap books, even if a faculty member has not yet put in an adoption request for the title. "He will buy books to get them off the market," shares Wolf. "He said, 'Why do we want to make it easier for our students to say the bookstore's not the cheapest game in town?' "
Parents and students, fueled by reports in the mainstream media, generally believe textbooks are just too expensive. Lorry McMahon, bookstore manager for the Washington & Jefferson College (Pa.) Bookstore, works against that mindset by doling out brochures from NACS answering the question, "Why do my textbooks cost so much?" The pamphlet breaks down the textbook pricing process to give students and their families valuable knowledge," she explains. She also points out that money made at the bookstore goes back into the college-and therefore ultimately benefits students.
Pricing is just one challenging situation that bookstore managers and directors face. But with proactive mindsets and the right strategies in play, they can ease worries all around.
It's time to forget about competitors such as Amazon UK, and focus on the future.
Is your institution using its fiscal resources to its greatest advantage to fulfill its mission and meet expectations within and beyond the campus? In an era of escalating costs and reduced resources, it's a question that every institution of higher education should be asking.
What are the four basic indicators of a successful school in its operations and well-being?
Indicator 1 Population.
Indicator 2 Population.
Indicator 3, Well, no surprise here--Population.
Indicator 4, Customer service levels.
Wake Forest University students have a firm grip on the future of technology. Indeed, up to 500 students at the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based institution are expected to use dual-mode phones that support cellular calls and IP communications this fall.
"You can surf the web and view video over WiFi or make a cell call from a single device," explains Jay Dominick, chief information officer and assistant VP of information systems, adding that, in previous years, the school has done personal digital assistant projects. "PDAs were useful, but if students were going to carry one thing we knew it would be a cell phone. That's what students ultimately want: one device for all their mobile needs."
That's for sure. As students moved from e-mail to instant messaging (IM) to short message service (SMS, a.k.a. text messaging) on digital phones, Wake Forest quickly realized that mobile phones would need to tie into the university's broader IT strategy, says Dominick.
That set the stage for dual-mode phones. Though still in their infancy, the devices may reshape cellular, WiFi, and mobile applications across university campuses. As dual-mode phones mature, they will be able to seamlessly connect to WiFi or cellular networks, based on the user's location and the relative signal strength of each network.
University CIOs from across the country have high hopes for dual-mode phones. "They'll be key devices for community building and collaborative learning," says Chellappa Kumar, CIO of the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. "And they'll deliver financial savings. Students with dual-mode phones will be able to talk to each other a lot more over WiFi networks without using up their cellular minutes."
Just ask David Hattey, president and CEO of FirstHand Technologies, about the monetary benefits of these devices. Hattey estimates that he saved his company $1,500 in cellular roaming charges during a recent business trip in Europe. His dual-mode phone, which has cellular and WiFi capabilities, logged more than 17 hours connected to WiFi hot spots across Europe.
Admittedly, Hattey has a vested interest in dual-mode's success. The Ontario-based company develops multimedia client software for smart phones, WiFi handsets, and emerging dual-mode devices.
Despite their promise, dual-mode phones also come with cost, network, application, and device challenges. For starters, many dual-mode phones cost $500 or more. The average price, though, could drop to $400 each by 2008, according to the research firm Access Intelligence.
Most dual-mode phones are untested in college and university environments, and dozens of devices have yet to emerge from Silicon Valley development labs. In some cases, interoperability issues have slowed or halted device development.
For instance, Cisco Systems and Motorola last year partnered to design a dual-mode phone that connects to cellular services as well as Cisco's enterprise IP phone switches. But based on publicly announced design plans, prospective customers complained that the devices likely wouldn't interoperate with other vendors' networks. Cisco and Motorola ultimately scrapped their joint development work in April 2006. Cisco is now working with Nokia on standardized dual-mode phones that will likely ship before year's end.
Other challenges loom. Institutions of higher ed will need to ensure that dual-mode systems provide ample bandwidth, security, coverage, and seamless handoffs between cellular and WiFi networks, notes Peter Brockman, senior VP of business development at FirstHand.
Wake Forest has already witnessed these challenges. The university has tested Cingular's 8125 smart phone, which allows students to make cell phone calls or, when in a WiFi hot zone, surf the web and view streaming video. Overall, Wake Forest officials are very pleased with the devices and upbeat about dual-mode's promise.
However, Dominick concedes that additional device and campus network enhancements are required to unlock the full power of dual-mode phones.
For instance, students who use the devices to place calls over the school's WiFi network will notice inconsistent or subpar service. "It's not fully baked yet," says Dominick. "Students can get Skype client [software] for the smart phones. This will let them place calls on the WiFi network but the quality isn't there yet. The service doesn't roam real well as you move between [WiFi] access points."
Brockman has observed similar challenges with dual-mode phones. "On the application front, you'll need to ensure seamless links between call servers, mobile devices, cellular services, and the public telephone infrastructure," he says. "Dual-mode phones also come with device-specific challenges related to battery life, radio performance, screen size, storage, processor performance, and memory."
In other words, dual-mode phones will require extensive testing-much in the way that WiFi networks and laptops required careful consideration back when wireless networks first came onto the scene.
Still, proponents insist that WiFi's popularity and students' growing interest in all-in-one mobile devices will drive dual-mode phones to mass popularity within two years.
"I don't know if it's 12 or 18 months until the devices [offer seamless roaming for WiFi and cell networks]," says Dominick. "But it's certainly not far beyond that."
Other college leaders agree. Kumar at NYCOM, for one, has high hopes for leveraging the institution's WiFi infrastructure, which currently delivers streaming video and other academic content to student laptops. As students begin to embrace dual-mode phones over the next year or two, the devices will "immediately leverage our WiFi infrastructure to receive academic content and university announcements," predicts Kumar.
The dual-mode phone revolution is already underway in Asia. Consider the situation in Taipei City, Taiwan. Under the city's "Taipei Easy Call" initiative, more than 200,000 people are expected to use wireless internet phones and Skype by the end of this year, according to a statement issued by the Taipei Computer Association. In Europe, BT Group (formerly British Telecom) and Orange-a major WiFi service provider-expect to release dual-mode phones later this year.
And in the United States, 76 percent of large companies expect at least some of their mobile workers to use dual-mode phones within the next three years, according to Access Intelligence.
Companies such as Rave Wireless are introducing next-generation mobile phone services for institutions of higher ed and their students. At Montclair State University (N.J.) for instance, students and officials can use Rave's wireless service to track the exact location of campus transportation vehicles. The university also conducts in-class and remote interactive polling over the service. And students can use their mobile phones to gather localized information, such as nearby restaurant specials or real-time updates from the campus library.
Instead of deploying dual-mode phones on their own, many IHEs instead plan to support devices that students purchase on their own. "The consumer market moves really rapidly," notes Jill Cherveny-Keough, director of academic computing at New York Institute of Technology, which has three campuses, one in Manhattan and two on Long Island. "I don't expect us to buy dual-mode phones for our students. I think students will already have them when they enroll."
NYIT students with dual-mode phones and the appropriate network security clearance can instantly utilize the college's WiFi network. "It's more than a device for chatting," says Cherveny-Keough. "Students can check in on their online courses, view e-mail-and even make free phone calls home to mom and dad. You can expect students would gain more efficient use of their cellular plan. Dual-mode phones will cut [calling] costs for sure."
Even at institutions that aren't quite ready for dual-mode phones, IT administrators can take gradual steps today to ensure that their network infrastructure supports future dual-mode rollouts.
Wake Forest, for instance, last year became the nation's first test ground for combination PocketPC phone devices on a college campus. The project-known as Mobile University, Mobile You-is now open to all students, faculty, and staff of the Reynolda campus for the fall of 2006.
Program members receive discounts on voice and data plans; discounted purchase price for the Cingular 8125; and access to custom software developed for members of the pilot program. A voice-enabled laundry service, for instance, tells students when their laundry is complete. Based on that test bed, Wake Forest this fall is rolling out up to 500 of these devices to students.
Wireless and mobile device experts praise the mobile computing program for its vision. "Wake Forest has deployed one of the most progressive, forward-thinking [wireless device] implementations," says Robert Liu, executive editor of TMCnet, a portal that tracks mobile and wireless trends. "That is a solid foundation to build upon."
Naturally, university IT managers will need to master multiple technologies in order to optimize applications for dual-mode devices. Experts recommend learning about Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which is rapidly emerging as a standard for rich IP communications. SIP can be used for all real-time services such as instant messaging and web-based conferencing. If legacy applications such as voice services don't currently support SIP, university officials should contact their application vendors to see if they plan future support for SIP.
Higher ed officials can see dual-mode phones in action at Voice over IP and cellular conferences-or reach out to networking partners such as Cisco and offer to beta test their dual-mode devices while they're still under development. This will offer a feel for a device's strengths, weaknesses, and potential applications.
Concludes Cherveny-Keough: "Dual-mode phones are inevitable. Why carry your PDA, laptop, and cell phone, when all you would need is one device?"
Joseph C. Panettieri is VP of editorial content at Microcast Communications (www.microcast.biz). He has covered Silicon Valley and vertical markets since 1992.
Viruses and worms have attacked every college and university network. Predictably, almost all colleges and universities use some virus protection software, spam filtering and or firewalls to try to protect IT networks. Still, the attacks keep coming, as do the security breaches.