National Geographic Learning to Launch Subscriptions for High Schools

As a division of Cengage, this is the company's newest subscription service.

National Geographic Learning, a division of Cengage, announced yesterday that it was launching a first-of-its-kind subscription service for high schools course materials. The new service is called Pathways, and it offers a curated collection of online educational programs for more than 200 career and technical education (CTE) and advanced placement (AP), honors and elective courses and nearly 70 programs to prepare students for college, said the company in a news release.

The subscriptions are available now, and school districts can purchase Pathways by paying an annual per-student fee. National Geographic Learning does not reveal the cost per student, and it may vary based on materials desired and school size. According to the announcement, school districts can save as much as 50 percent compared to other educational course materials. Interested educators can contact an NGL sales consultant for more information.

National Geographic Learning said one important feature of the subscription service and Cengage platform is that, when textbooks or high school educational requirements change, the course materials can adapt quickly.

“Data from The College Board, the U.S. Department of Education and others show that students who are exposed to AP and career ed courses have fewer costs and more success in postsecondary education.  Yet despite increased pressure to prepare their students for college and career success, many high school administrators put off buying materials due to lack of funds,” said Vincent Grosso, senior vice president and managing director for National Geographic Learning.

“We created Pathways to help districts address these budgetary constraints. The subscription approach will reduce both the up-front and long-term costs districts face in buying instructional materials,” Grosso added.

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Here’s a brief selection of programs offered in Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies:

  • Reading
  • Speech and Communication
  • Writing
  • Comparative Government and Politics
  • Forensic Science
  • Meteorology
  • Oceanography
  • Algebra and Trigonometry
  • Statistics

National Geographic Learning’s career course list includes agriscience, business education, career/technical, health science and technical trades and more than 150 programs to prepare students for careers. Careers include medical billing and coding, dental assisting, personal finance, drafting and architecture, horticulture and landscaping, and food science, to name a few.

“Even as more high schools use digital to engage students in instruction, they continue to adopt course content using a traditional textbook approach, usually once every six to twelve years,” said Grosso. “By changing to a subscription model where courses and content can be easily added, tested, or changed, Pathways is now the only solution in the market allowing educators to fully embrace all that digital curriculum has to offer.”

Cengage first announced its on-demand digital college textbook subscription service, Cengage Unlimited, in December 2017. The service didn’t actually launch until summer of 2018, and the company has already had trouble with two of its textbook authors. In May, before the service actually launched, authors David Knox and Caroline Schacht filed a lawsuit against Cengage, alleging that the changing of its royalty compensation model midstream. The authors claim this would inhibit their ability to earn royalties which constituted a breach of contract and good faith. Though it did not admit any wrongdoing, Cengage settled the lawsuit with the authors in October.

Cengage launched Cengage Unlimited to make college course materials more affordable via subscription versus textbook rentals. The subscription costs as little as $119.99 for four months and up to $239.99 for a two-year subscription. Cengage Unlimited provides students with access to more than 22,000 course materials. Whether or not that’s a deal depends on whether Cengage can provide you with access to all of your materials.

“We want to make it easy for every student to be able to afford their education. For us, that starts with textbooks, because hey-that’s what we do. That’s why with Cengage Unlimited, we’ve put all your Cengage access codes, online textbooks, study tools and more into one subscription,” says Cengage of their Unlimited subscription.

Insider Take:

Cengage is blazing a trail for digital textbook subscriptions, which makes sense in a world where we are constantly updating your content and sharing the latest research and information. It would be nearly impossible to publish a textbook and not have changes almost as soon as it is published. Cengage is removing that risk by offering an accessible platform that can offer updated materials as soon as they get them.

Will digital textbook subscriptions work for high school and college students? Each has a different model. With high school courses, the schools or school districts adopt and pay for the materials. In college, the instructors choose the materials but the students, or their parents, have to pay for them. We think it may take some time for the model to shake out and evolve into something that works for all parties involved, but we like the concept behind it and we hope it is successful.