The Educational Publishing Awards of Australia were founded on celebrating innovation and research and this year those principles were put to the test. While educational publishers have deftly accelerated their digital offerings during the pandemic, the future looks set to bring more transformation in the way tertiary publishers, in particular, support educators and learning.
We recently spoke to the Higher Education product and publishing team at McGraw Hill. As winners of the Most Outstanding Tertiary Educational Resource 2020, Matthew Coxhill, Portfolio Manager of Higher Education, confirms that keeping an open mind about how to approach the business of educational publishing will be key in the near future.
The winning resource, Financial Accounting 9th, was deemed comprehensive and relevant by the judges and in our chat we found out more about the textbook’s development and the challenges the team faced bringing it to the market – all before the pandemic reared.
It’s been a big year and universities have been terribly hit. How would you say COVID has most impacted the Tertiary publishing industry?
Apart from a simple loss of revenue due to reduced enrolments, COVID-19 has accelerated trends that were already in place. That is, our industry has had to move to a more digital focus faster than would otherwise have been the case, so we are at a place now that may have taken two to three years to reach. There is also the question of student buying habits and reliance on publisher produced content. This had been in decline, but with the sudden move online traditional sources of content further lost relevance quite suddenly.
What’s been the biggest learning your company has taken on board after this year?
Probably the need to review our fundamental business models and assumptions with a view to how we can best develop and deliver content to the higher education sector. The move to digital is only a part of that. We will become more agile in how we respond to market needs, both student and lecturer.
Given the 2020 we’re experiencing, what is your approach to 2021 and the resources you plan to develop?
An open mind! Let’s not do it the way we always have done.
Your resource Financial Accounting 9th won at the Educational publishing awards this year — and was deemed the most outstanding resource in the tertiary bracket. What do you feel accounts for the win? In terms of the resources’ features, what’s McGraw Hill most proud of with it?
McGraw Hill is most proud of how the resourcebook came together with the content bringing to life material around the Australian Accounting Standards. The author, Craig Deegan, is adept at providing clarity of explanation for students in what is a complex subject and it is this that has led to the book being the leader in its market. We were also able to pull a complex project together in a remarkablyin remarkably short time, meeting the target publication date and allowing use at the start of 2020.
What or who sparked the need for an updated edition?
This text is aimed at 2nd and 3rd year, and post-grad, accounting students and must be relevant to the most recent changes to the IASB Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting and the Australian Accounting Standards. This need for currency drove the need for a new edition, together with newer topics in the discipline such as social responsibility and sustainability.
What was the process of pulling the resource together? How long did it take and how many people were involved? (trying to communicate the value of what you do here!)
A textbook like this involves a significant team. The first steps begin with the publisher commissioning extensive market research, all coordinated in house. Sales and marketing people are invaluable, as they provide names and contact details of lecturers familiar with the book who can provide feedback. After discussion with the author, a business case is put together by the publisher and presented to the company for approval. This includes the justification (market and financial) for moving ahead with the new edition. A Content Developer then works with the author to pull the book together (as well as conducting further reviews to check the changes being made are in line with the market). The manuscript is then turned into a book by a Project Editor, who works with an external designer, editor, permissions editor, typesetter, proof-reader and tech checker at different stages. There is also (these days) a considerable contribution from the digital side of the business, to ensure that the online ancillary material (eg. testbank, PowerPoints, videos) is accurate and working. All up, the process can take around 18 months depending on its complexity.
Were there any challenges in making it or promoting it?
One aspect that had an impact during production was that the permissions landscape is getting more complicated. This meant a more complex process for securing permission to use third party material, as well as more costly. In terms of the market, this is a very competitive space. With our publication date being slightly later than is ideal, our sales and marketing people had to work harder to gain interest from lecturers and to get them to delay decisions until later than normal. We provided an updated bank of Quiz questions to keep adopters on board until the new edition was ready. Having said that, these challenges were overcome effectively, and numerous new adoptions were won. Of course, this paled with the onset of COVID-19 and the challenges it brought.
What’s been the feedback from educators who are using it?
Educators are impressed by the depth of content and the approach. The additional topics have been well-received, as has been the significant digital package, and the author videos, which help to ‘demystify’ some of the content. The sudden move to wholly online delivery earlier in 2020 meant that the digital materials were even more relevant and useful than before. We are also lucky to have a widely known and respected author this work.
Have you received any feedback from student users? Is that information you are able to collect?
Historically we have had anecdotal direct student feedback. Having said that, the author’s aim with this resource package is to speak more directly to the student, explaining the how and why of financial accounting, instead of just the ‘how’. It will be interesting to see if we notice increased student engagement with the publisher.