Thoughts On Textbook Selection

Textbook selection is not among the least of our responsibilities as a member of the faculty. Years of hearing from students that their “money is funny”, their financial aid didn’t arrive in time to purchase the required text by week three of an eight-week semester, or the edition they bought secondhand didn’t have the assigned sections, I decided to go with electronic texts available in the public domain. As an avid reader of books one can hold in one’s hands and hopefully soon to be gainfully published author, I was deeply troubled with this compromise. It too proved unworkable however. There were problems with access codes, confusion between free versus paid options of the same text, and deceptive instructions for accessing the completely free resources. Still, I kept reviewing titles in hopes of finding ones worth all the hassles I knew would come with adoption. In the meantime, I decided to try something preposterous. I decided to teach an entirely online class without a required textbook. I lost one student who found the format described below “boring” and withdrew before Week 1 ended. Those who remained wrote things like the following in their Legacies:

Utilize everything because it will only make you a better student not only in this class but in future classes as well… I really did not find any part of this class useless.  It was all useful and I will take away a lot from this course, more than any other course I have taken that is for sure. (J.I. SP12)

There are many course objectives, but the ones that helped me the most were; setting realistic and attainable goals, reading texts with improved focus, comprehension, and retention, presenting clear oral and written reports, and managing priorities effectively. While you are doing your Resource Research you will have to read a lot of different articles.  Some of them, I had to read a few times to comprehend.  This class definitely helped me to read and be more focused on the subject.  For a lot of the assignments you will be responsible for writing paragraphs with fresh insight you gained.  You will also be responsible for writing feedback to your fellow classmates.  For the Midterm and Final you will have to write a Paper.  This has helped me to think about the structure of my writing.  Of course because things are due at a certain time and some assignments require more time than others; this has helped me with setting realistic goals and managing priorities effectively. (T.F. SP12)

The following is excerpted from an email sent to a publisher’s representative regarding a book I considered but declined to adopt. It is offered in hopes of shedding light on one thought process during book selection.

At long last I am able to send a few words of feedback on the text, Z. Deep apologies for the delay.
I was considering the requested title for my College Success course but find the text too dense and layout unappealing. This spells disaster for new and novice-readers breaking it into the academy.

Last semester, I did not use a textbook. Instead, I posted a weekly topic and had students post links to different resources (conduct & contributeResource Research)on the same theme with a proposed assignment. It worked well. This Fall I will require students to complete one assignment from a different classmate each week in addition to reading and responding to classmates’ posts with comments about the assignment’s usefulness and suggestions for transferability beyond our class.

Moving in this way from theory to practice of ‘college success’ and several course objectives seems to build critical reading and thinking skills and expose students to a broader cross-section of resources than using a textbook does traditionally. At this juncture, where the rubber hits the road, learners must polish their decision-making, time management (to avoid duplication of links) and process-writing skills (in order to communicate the assignment) while at the same time get into the minds of multiple ‘teachers’ (fellow learner-leaders) at once.

This approach worked well enough in one subject-area that I am going to try it in Composition come Fall. I’d love to hear how others approach this issue.

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