ICON Direct logo

University of Iowa students will soon have easy, online access to many textbooks at a significantly lower cost through a new “storefront” in the UI course-management system, ICON.


ICON Direct will provide new options for digital texts and media-rich online content, making those resources available for free in some cases, through open educational resources (OER), or at greatly reduced publisher pricing.


When instructors decide to provide an online textbook through ICON Direct, MyUI will notify students with a description of the book and its cost. Students can access the book as early as a week before the semester, and the cost will automatically appear on their U-Bill.


ICON Direct is a partner project of the Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology, the Iowa Hawk Shop Book Store, Administrative Information Systems, and UI Libraries.


It was successfully piloted in the fall and spring semesters and is being rolled out broadly in fall 2018. Over 140 course sections have already indicated that they intend to use ICON Direct for their courses, with this number increasing every day.


“Digital content, and particularly eTexts, are becoming a more viable option for instructors and students as tuition and higher education costs continue to rise for students across the country,” says Maggie Jesse, senior director of the Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology. “New pricing structures are providing significant savings to students, even as technology supports increased engagement with students directly within course content in rich, new ways.”


ICON Direct is one of several new teaching and learning tools being developed by Unizin, a consortium of universities that pools its collective energy, experience, and expertise to confront the challenge of providing high-quality, affordable access to learning. Iowa is a founding member of Unizin.   

Students will have the ability to “opt out” of using the ICON Direct eText book for their courses. But UI instructors who have already implemented ICON Direct say the interactive tools—including the opportunity to annotate text, take notes, and pose questions and answers among faculty members and students—can enhance comprehension and overall course outcomes.   


Along with those benefits, the pilot project showed great promise in saving students money.


In Fall 2017 three faculty members incorporated ICON Direct into their courses, impacting 1,293 students, for a total saving of $90,117.50.


In Spring 2017, 10 faculty members incorporated ICON Direct into their courses, impacting 3,151 students, for a total saving of $168,568.96.


Overall, the savings for both piloted semesters total $258,704.46. Estimated savings are currently calculated as the difference between list price and the Unizin-negotiated price. Actual savings are impossible to estimate given that many students would not have paid list price due to used books, textbook rentals, or decisions not to purchase the text or content at all. Therefore, by a conservative estimate that cuts the savings by 50%, the financial benefits to students nevertheless remains significant, at $129,352.23.


Examples of Student Savings in Two Individual Courses


MSCI:1500 CPH:1600

Print Price:                   $154.00
Unizin Price:               $109.72
Student Savings            $44.28
Times 942 students:    $41,711.76

Print Price:                $206.00
Unizin Price:             $64.65
Student Savings:          $141.35
Times 120 students:   $16,962.0


If we cut the savings above by 50%, the savings remain significant, even for a small pilot, at $29,336.88 for two courses. 


For more information, see: https://campustechnology.com/articles/2018/04/26/indiana-u-releases-free-guide-to-e-text-programs.aspx or download through Pressbooks at: https://iu.pb.unizin.org/iuetexts101/.


For questions and more information about how to incorporate ICON Direct into your courses contact Annette Beck, Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology at annette-beck@uiowa.edu or Vicky Maloy at victoria-maloy@uiowa.edu.