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XanEdu: Out of Chaos, Coursepacks

Some of the most successful educational technology ventures have taken an artifact of the pre-technology world and revolutionized it for contemporary use. One such artifact is most certainly the coursepack, that compilation of photocopied readings and instructor scribbles distributed to students through the campus bookstore.

Digital publishing services have revitalized this old technology, opening up new options for instructors who want the uniqueness of a coursepack but lack the time to compile the readings and clear all the copyright permissions. XanEdu, a leader in the academic digital publishing services business, offers a number of customized coursepack options and resources for instructors. But XanEdu d'esn’t just compile coursepacks. It is also a copyright clearance center and a source of developmental support for instructors.

In addition, XanEdu, a division of ProQuest Information and Learning, is also a content provider, with an extraordinarily large digital storehouse of academic material that it makes available for both coursepacks and online research. XanEdu gives users access to a large commercial archive, encompassing thousands of respected publishers worldwide. Spanning 500 years of scholarship, this archive includes periodicals, newspapers, out-of-print books, dissertations, scholarly collections of manuscripts, and other original-source materials.

Launched only two years ago, XanEdu has taken the coursepack market by storm. Its coursepack products are in use in more than 900 schools nationwide and some in other countries. As a full-service digital and print coursepack provider, XanEdu offers the instructor several options. An instructor can send XanEdu a bibliography and ask XanEdu to build a coursepack. Instructors can also register with XanEdu and gain access to the directory of materials in order to build their own coursepacks. Other instructors may choose to submit the course syllabus and leave it to XanEdu to select and suggest relevant resources from their collections. XanEdu offers complete copyright clearance regardless of how the coursepack is created. The company also sells pre-packaged coursepacks for many common courses, created by instructors for instructors specifically for XanEdu.

About 25 percent of XanEdu’s coursepack business is digital, with the rest sold as a combination of print and digital material. Lew Gossage, general manager and senior vice president for the company, says they are moving toward a ratio of 45 percent digital to 55 percent print or print/digital. XanEdu can provide digital coursepacks within 24 hours of receiving the request if all of the material is drawn from XanEdu’s archives.

In addition to its core business of coursepacks, XanEdu has launched an impressive series of what it calls ReSearch Engines. The general ReSearch Engine is appropriate for social science and liberal arts undergraduate student research. There is an engine for pre-service and in-service education students and one for MBA students, and the company is looking into adding nursing and psychology engines as well. Through these engines, available via subscription, students can access millions of pages of targeted content from thousands of newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals. The engines are searchable in a number of different ways and can be viewed by page image, text only, text and graphics, or abstract/citation.

XanEdu has an extensive collection of content in many areas, especially business, the social sciences, and the humanities. As with the ReSearch Engines, these documents can be viewed in a variety of formats. XanEdu recently partnered with Harvard University’s business school to include its case studies and the Harvard Business Review in its offerings. Says Gossage: “Our alliance with Harvard Business School Publishing, our leverage of our databases and additional case content—from schools such as Thunderbird—make us the strongest player” in the business arena. XanEdu’s goal is to become the largest digital case archive in the world.

XanEdu’s content collections are too numerous to list more than a small percentage. The company offers the National Security Archive, with video and declassified National Security Agency content related to the Cuban missile crisis. For humanities students, there are many resources, including Literature Online and Early English Books Online, which includes Shakespeare’s first folios. XanEdu’s owner, ProQuest, is a leading online research tool, giving XanEdu access to that company’s vast collections as well—thousands of newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals. For instance, every issue of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times is available through ProQuest’s Historical Newspapers series.

XanEdu has plans to offer content in the sciences and technology fields, as well as develop original content through various partnerships. Gossage is excited about The Bondswoman’s Narrative Companion, a supplement to the landmark text (see The print and digital companion, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr., includes original scholarship, research documents, archival images, full-text editions of 19th-century fiction and non-fiction for comparative analysis, and other materials to support and enrich study of the work. Gossage hopes that XanEdu will get involved in more ventures like this one in the future.

For more information on XanEdu, visit

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