Digital Growth in a Hybrid Market: Outsell’s End-User Study of US Higher Education Faculty & Students

Author: Kate Worlock

Date: November 7, 2016



Consumption habits are rapidly evolving as the industry moves in a digital direction, and quick and easy access to content is critical. For solutions providers with educational software and services targeted at faculty and student audiences in the US higher education market, knowing how and where end-users consume content is crucial. What obstacles are faced in accessing information, how do textbooks come into play, and what are the implications of smartphone and laptop usage?

Digital Growth in a Hybrid Market analyzes results of a survey sent to faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students in US higher education and addresses the problems, opportunities, and risks within the industry. Challenges involving time and budget remain more important than deliberately searching for digital content. However, getting quick and easy access to content is critical and there are indications that more could be done here.

The report also covers content types most consumed, budget trends, preferred formats for information consumption, and how social media comes into play for both personal and professional reasons.

The higher education content market will most likely remain a hybrid environment with a multiplicity of choices for end users for years to come. To stay ahead of market trends and user habits, read Outsell’s essential actions and recommendations.


In March 2016, 304 higher education students and faculty responded to Outsell’s online survey. Responses included 152 faculty (119 full-time and 33 part-time) and 152 students (115 full-time and 37 part-time), as shown in Figure 1. The overall margin of error for the study is +/−5.6% at a 95% confidence interval. If extrapolated to the US population, the results will fall within the margin of error at least 18 times out of 20.

Outsell Inc. Digital Growth in a Hybrid Market: Outsell’s End-User Study of US Higher Education Faculty & Students

Table of Contents: 

Why This Topic?



Time and Budget Remain Barriers to Getting Information

Textbooks Remain a Vital Information Source

Students Lag Faculty on the Digital Adoption Curve

Learning Management Systems (LMS) Are Well-Used, But There’s More Potential

Faculty Remain Critical to Buying Decisions

Students & Faculty Demand Trusted Information

Open Educational Resources Are Used by Less Than Half of Faculty and Students

Massive Decline in Purchasing of New Textbooks

Ongoing Expectation that Digital Should be Cheaper Than Print as Digital Plateau Approaches

Near Ubiquitous Usage of Both Smartphones and Laptops


Essential Actions

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