Comparing Online Textbook Support and Resources: How do four major publishers measure up?

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E-book and e-textbook sales, as well as sales of conventional higher-education textbooks, are on the rise due to increased college enrollment. Evaluating the online resources and learning technologies associated with prospective college texts has become an imperative, but sometimes daunting task.

Most textbook publishers have stepped up to the plate by providing a number of digital services, e-texts, and online resources to help the users of their conventional text books.  These are tools for both the educators who teach from and the students who learn from those texts.

Many publisher products target educators short of time for preparation by generating pre-made or customized lesson plans and syllabi, as well as tailoring curriculum and even online texts to instructor’s specifications. Opportunities for hybrid or blended courses abound. Text-specific assessments and interactive learning technology for students are also available for many texts. Several companies are even engineering complete online classes which can be accessed directly by students, employed by instructors or adopted by institutions.

Below is a comparison of the learning technology resources available from the science text publishers Pearson, Wiley, Cengage and McGraw-Hill, followed by a brief summary and highlight of each company’s unique offerings.

 Rating of certain electronic resources for  four college level text publishers*

Much of Pearson, Cengage, McGraw Hill and Wiley’s resource provision overlaps, particularly in the curriculum development, course customization and hybridization categories, yet each company seems to excel or specialize in one area or another.

Pearson: Outstanding customer service and interactive materials mastery 





Pearson publishing has a very strong web presence, uncluttered web pages and very easy to find “contact us” links on nearly every page. Regional representatives are easily accessible by phone or email and respond in an incredibly timely, helpful and professional manner. Pearson’s Mylab/Mastering are created for specific subjects and texts (i.e. Mastering A&P). These sites allow for teacher-student interaction through assignment submission and grading. However, they are also provide a very powerful learning opportunity for students to play learning games and take computerized quizzes to master course material through a high-quality graphic interface and image rich environment. Pearson’s digital repository, EQUELLA, has recently formed a deeper partnership with learning management system, Moodle.

Wiley: Excelling in integration as WileyPLUS and Blackboard unite 




WileyPLUS joined forces with the learning management system, Blackboard. This convenient integration is available for the first time for the Fall term of 2012 and Wiley boasts that students can save up to 50% in text costs by going digital. Wiley also offers a series of two-minute tutorials to help both students and faculty using WileyPLUS to learn how to effectively navigate their digital services. For further instructor support and training for Wiley products, there are easy to find links to both Technical Support as well as the WileyPLUS Account Manager. Additionally, the Wiley Faculty Network offers an opportunity for global collaboration, mentorship, and other professional development resources. Wiley also has easy-to-find links to contact a live area representative.

Cengage: Customized online learning and professional development 





Cengage is stretching its legs in online learning, with distance learning platforms such as Ed2Go which offers a variety of six week long, high-demand courses and CompuTaught which features professional courses such as real-estate licensing. Distinctively, students enroll directly in provided courses which are taught by online instructors employed by Cengage. Cengage Learning sponsored NetLearning is specifically geared toward health care education with a feature for learning certain subject specific matter which resembles Pearson’s Mastering A&P and McGraw-Hill’s GetBodySmart. Additionally, TeamUp offers professional development opportunities as well as fostering an interactive professional educator community and mentoring support network. Cengage is also teaming up with Blackboard through MindTap an interactive and customizable online course management tool.

McGraw-Hill: Promoting E-texts to reduce education costs 





In the Spring semester of 2012, McGraw-Hill partnered with Internet2 and Courseload to provide an eText Pilot Trial Pack at five universities around the country to promote eTexts in higher education to enhance learning and reduce education costs. In addition to providing eTexts, McGraw-Hill’s Online Learning Center provides opportunities for interactive learning in subjects such as Human Physiology with its GetBodySmart which appears to be similar in nature to Pearson’s Mastering A&P and Cengage’s NetLearning. McGraw-Hill Learning Solutions and McGraw-Hill Professional also provide a number of support services for curricula development and educator support and networking.

*Research for this article was conducted in July 2012 by exploring each company’s websites, products and contacting live representatives from each company when available.



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About Ashley

Ashley has a B.A. in Environmental Studies and M.E.M. with an emphasis in Environmental Health from Yale. Currently, she blogs on delicious recipes and holistic nutrition at

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