Medical Schools May Benefit from Apple’s Volume Purchase Program for Apps and Books

Medical Schools May Benefit from Apple’s Volume Purchase Program for Apps and Books

Those who work or study on a university campus have likely heard quite a bit about Apple’s Volume Purchase Program. They’ve probably heard both good and bad things about it, and that’s because it does have both its pros and cons. If you are considering the program for your school, it’s a good idea to learn a bit about how it works and whether it is going to be right for you or not. As more and more schools are taking digital approaches to learning, and as there are more apps and textbooks available for the iPad and other tablets, it makes sense to start looking into what this type of discount program can really offer.

How Does the Program Work?

The program actually works quite simply. Once the school designates people to sign up and act as program facilitators, they will be able to purchase applications and books in volume. They can use credit cases, Apple Volume Vouchers, or PCards to make those purchases. 

Once they make their purchases, for example, 100 copies of a medical textbook, they will receive the unique download codes needed to redeem that book. The program facilitator will then need to distribute the codes to those who will need them, such as teachers, administrators, or directly to the students. Once the students have their codes, they will be able to go to the iTunes store to redeem them. It’s as simple as that, which is why it’s starting to become a popular program with many schools. 

What Does this Mean for Students? 

For students, it can mean getting the books and tools they need at a friendlier price. Rather than paying the hefty fee for the print version of the books, it is possible to save with the digital versions. Many app developers offer their apps at half price if an educational institution purchases 20 or more copies.  Additionally (although this beginning to change some), you won’t need a new version every couple years as most developers (except for Epocrates, Skycape, Unbound Medicine, etc) won’t make you pay for updates (i.e. a new edition) every couple of years.



What about other Platforms?  Does Android or others offer something similar? 

Unfortunately, there is no volume purchase or similar program available for Android, Blackberry or Windows phones and tablets.  However, as the medical app marketplace becomes more and more competitive, look for these companies to potentially offer similar incentives to students and educational institutions (although none of these companies offer free promotional codes for developers yet, like Apple does, so they do not seem to have an infrastructure built around the ability to use redemption codes – however that is another story).

What Challenges Do Schools Face? 

While there certainly are quite a few things to like about Apple’s Volume Discount Program, schools are still facing some challenges in this area. One of the issues that they can face when they are searching for the right applications and books is that the products offered might not be what they need. The apps need to be vetted before they are bought in bulk.  However, they usually are to some degree as the faculty member will usually choose which apps the school will buy for the particular course they are teaching. Then there are more obvious concerns such as ensuring the students all have iOS devices versus other brands (which do not offer this option).  Some schools buy the devices and provide them to students, but that’s not the norm.  Many schools that have opted for utilizing apps in their teaching have categorized the apps as ‘supplemental’ or ‘optional’ resources for the students.  

The other challenges we have heard revolve around getting the “buy-in” from academic leadership to make these purchases.  They must be made by the university, and one professor that I had asked about her thoughts on the process shared with me that the “hardest part was convincing program directors and board members, that we weren’t going to be buying a bunch of ‘Angry Bird’ apps to distribute to the students, as they were apparently envisioning”.   It seems that a fair amount of education needs to occur with all parties and a solid proposal needs to be in place for how the apps will contribute to education and in the end save money.  She did also state that dealing with Apple was the easiest part of the process.

Overall, this seems like a very decent program and it has the potential for improving medical education delivery, while at the same time helping to save money for the schools. In addition to the benefits to students, this can be reason enough to look into the program.  Finally, it’s the only app platform that provides an academic discount, and let’s face it, 50% savings is not insignificant, especially on a student budget!


Any academic users out there have any other personal experiences to share about this program? 




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