edtech, course materials, curriculum preparation

Industry Focus: Course Materials

Technology-based alternative content is forcing changes in the textbook publishing industry. For this reason, educational institutions need to adapt their curriculum accordingly. Luckily, for ambitious job seekers interested in technology and education, this brings positive changes in terms of new job positions. However, for you to contribute to this industry, you first need to familiarise yourself with innovative educational changes.

Digital Educational Resources

Nowadays, young people tend to be technology-oriented. Therefore, students would benefit from institutions providing a range of online learning and content tools, including video and open educational resources (OERs). OERs include all educational resources, usually in a digital form such as learning objects, open courseware, etc. that can be freely accessed via the internet. Sally Johnstone (the Vice President for Academic Advancement of the Western Governors University), in her paper Open educational resources serve the world, characterizes OERs as:

  • Learning resources – courseware, content modules, learning objects, learner-support and assessment tools, online learning communities
  • Resources to support teachers – tools for teachers and support materials to enable them to create, adapt, and use OER, as well as training materials for teachers and other teaching tools
  • Resources to assure the quality of education and educational practices

The fast-growing digitization of information is creating opportunities for institutions to enhance pedagogy with new forms of content creation and dissemination. Most institutions have traditionally structured materials and access to content in the form of textbooks. This will see a digital transformation, with video and OER being increasingly important forces in the facilitation of teaching and learning, resulting in the decline of print textbooks.

edtech, educational technology, course materials

Digital Course Materials Vs. Printed Textbooks

The unsustainable cost of print textbooks, expanding educational technology, and an increase in low-cost alternatives will force the textbook publishing industry to make changes in order to survive. Publishers will have to prepare for a decentralized market, that will move away from textbook titles and toward digitization. This is entirely positive, and the preference for digital devices in the student age group will offer publishers the opportunity to increase access to their digital offerings. Eventually, publishers will move beyond the current business model of textbook publishing and toward positioning themselves as learning companies that promote better learning outcomes for students.

However, providing the content alone will not improve learning outcomes. Rather, providing the means to keep students engaged and help them to succeed will be more valuable, and will allow publishers to successfully compete in the market. After all, the goal of publishers will be to support future growth, as opposed to protecting declining revenues. Rethinking methods of engagement with institutions will enable publishers to take advantage of the disruption facing the market.

Digital Course Material Platforms

According to Business Insider, there are more than 50 million Chromebooks in schools today. Their latest numbers say that 30,000 new Chromebooks are activated in schools every school day. This proves that digital learning material is making its way into the education system.

In June 2016, Amazon announced the launch of their free Amazon Inspire platform that includes tens of thousands of free lesson plans, worksheets, and other instructional materials for teachers. The new site is intended to help teachers pinpoint timely and relevant free resources for their classrooms.

The New York Times reported that Facebook and Summit Public Schools, a nonprofit charter school network with headquarters in Silicon Valley, announced that nearly 120 schools planned in the fall of 2016 to introduce a free student-directed learning system developed jointly by the social network and the charter schools. The Summit Personalized Learning Platform is described as “student-driven” in which students assemble their own learning materials. They are provided with tools to develop learning materials and to accomplish learning goals, established by schools.

Blippar soft-launched their new education division, Blippar for Education, at the BETT 2015 education trade show in London in January 2015. As they announced: “Blippar’s goal in the education space is to enable educators to seamlessly enhance learning spaces and materials digitally – which students access using their smart device.”

In March 2016, Cengage Learning, a leading provider of educational content, technology, and services company for the higher education, K-12, professional, and library markets worldwide, stated in their fiscal annual report that:

“In recent years, more public sources of free or relatively inexpensive information and research materials have become available. We expect these trends to continue. For example, certain educational institutions have increased demand for lower priced educational materials, including e-books at prices below the price of print books. Technological changes and the availability of free or relatively inexpensive information and materials have also affected changes in consumer behavior and expectations.” Thus, they explained the benefits of using the digital material.

edtech, course materials

Another platform worth mentioning is ForClass. This is a cloud-based platform for case study distribution, student assessment, and class management. It sources materials from publishers and optimizes it for the platform, making it available for students and teachers. Accordingly, it is used by 25,000+ students at 80+ leading institutions, including the Kellogg School of Management, Harvard Business School, and Columbia Business School. They have also been able to “push” textbook materials and supplemental learning materials to students’ e-readers without having to worry about access to the material for all students, or burdening students with extra costs.

Study Programs

As can be expected, there are no specific study programs dealing with course materials alone. However, a background knowledge in education is advisable. Having insight into how educational facilities function and what achievements are expected from learners will help you to construct your own innovative ideas in course materials. These European study programs will point you in the right direction:

Bachelor Programs

Masters Programs

Job Opportunities

Up to now, this article has introduced you to some basic information about course materials and their digitalization. If you are intrigued by this topic, here are some job positions waiting for those who wish to make improvements in education system by working on course materials for learners.


As a teacher, you will directly influence which materials are being used and how students are educated. Besides following the curriculum, you can share your opinions on which materials should be used. You can also add extra materials that will benefit the students.

Material developer

Online teaching material keeps improving and changing in education. Therefore, institutions and companies offering these materials need a global team of experts that will create and develop the material. A good team spirit and educational background is advisable. One of the requirements is collecting information about upcoming trends in course material and technology. Experience in teaching is a plus.

edtech job, course materials, material developer

Technical Writer

The job includes writing and organizing texts in the course materials. An ideal person for this position is detail-oriented with exceptional writing, research, and organizational ability. The writer must be able to adapt to the specific writing style needed for the material being written or developed.


Companies worldwide are seizing the opportunity to infiltrate the educational technology business. Digital course materials opens doors for both innovative companies and job seekers. As course materials continue to change, the ideas for modernization of education continue to mount, thus enabling young minds to contribute to this growing business.

If you liked this article, you might also be interested in our features on next-generation schools.

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Theresa Kern

Ecosystem Basics, Education