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We are supposed to put in our textbook orders for the fall of 2015 by the 15th of March.  Buying textbooks was one of the things I enjoyed most as an undergraduate.  I would stand in line to get the opportunity to go into the bookstore (it was a very small store and only 10 or 20 people were allowed to go in at a time for fire code reasons, and also because you couldn't claw your way through the store if they let in everyone who wanted to be in there), take a basket and load up with the new, sweet-smelling, crisp-paged textbooks, dictionaries, maps, pocket folders and the obligatory pens and pencils.  I would then take out the much-cherished parental credit card, sign the paper receipt, and then trek back to my dorm room to arrange the books carefully upon the shelf, in the order of the course meetings through the week.  I then would wait until the price of the phone call went down (after 7 pm or 11 pm for the best rates, for those of you who don't remember when there was only Ma Bell), and call home to warn my parents of the bill that was to come.  They would usually be horrified that I had spent so much, and one time, when I spent $100 for the semester's haul because I bought both a French and a German dictionary that were not strictly absolutely needed, they were very angry with me.

Of course, that was more than 30 years ago, and you are lucky these days to get away with $100 for a single class, and in some classes, it is less than a third or a quarter of a single textbook.  There was an item on NPR this week about how the more expensive the textbooks get, the more students are likely to rent them or buy used or do without, and thus the publishers find themselves raising the price to cover the cost of production, and thus we are into a death spiral of costs.  This has led publishers to push online textbooks (not Ebooks) which have all sorts of bells and whistles and are designed so that students cannot share (you buy access to an online test and quiz section as well), and that have a built in expiration date.  While our students are fine with (and in many cases, prefer) Ebooks, the other stuff they are less thrilled with, as it is difficult to limit costs, which is exactly why textbook publishers are pushing those options.  

So what am I to do, to limit costs, still provide students with the best instruction possible, and get my orders in on time?  Follow me below the orange on-ramp of doom for some thoughts, and please add your own thoughts in the comments.  I really would like to have an idea of what you do in your classes?

In one of my classes, I use three relatively cheap books that don't update on a regular schedule.  By now there are lots of copies of the used volumes circulating, and if students want they can buy nice new copies from the bookstores or on line.  Because I teach art history, the quality of reproductions matters, and some Ereaders will not provide good enough images to study from.  So even when there are copies available the students may not want to buy things that are available electronically.  I do give them as much choice in that as possible.  

My other larger class is one in which we have spent the last year fighting to get supporting instructional materials from the publisher.  And there is that annoying problem of the publishers producing a new edition at the last minute, just in time for the fall semester (the fourth edition now, I think, or perhaps the fifth?  there are very few changes, and not the ones that need to be changed -- there are still factual mistakes in it, which have been pointed out to the publishers on a repeated basis).  But of course, the fall semester start date varies from school to school, and there are several different options for purchasing a large textbook, and so the version that our students prefer, the split-into-halves paperback (which is still about $150/volume), which is the cheaper option if you want to share or keep a copy after the class (the online access is less than that)...  This split version was not ready available for purchase until several weeks into the semester.  Maybe it was available in a larger city, or with a different vendor, or on the east or west coasts, but our students were stuck.  And there were never any sets of images that we could teach from in our classes. They were supposed to be online, I guess, but there was no online resource for us, even in the teachers' section of the online version of the textbook.  So how were we supposed to use the books for our brick-and-mortar classes?  There were several other issues we had, and it has led the people in my program (it is not a university-wide thing, but it is agreed upon among the four of us who teach our discipline) to abandon any books that this publisher provides.  It helps that they are more expensive and more regularly updated than other publishers, and the updating (which are often more aesthetic changes than content ones) leads to increased costs.  

So the other main prof in the program and I went to the national conference to talk with publishers about their textbooks.  And we have found two publishers that we like who are working on potential textbooks that will work, if they get them done.  But they are a few years away.  We gave them our cards, and hope they will contact us and ask us for our feedback, which they indicated they would do.  In the meantime we are considering our options, and may be moving to a stop-gap alternative from a different publisher, one that has many of the same issues as the one we have had problems with recently, but at least perhaps the book doesn't have mistakes that remain uncorrected from one edition to the next?  We can hope so.

I am also teaching an upper-level class in my area of specialization (Egypt) that may not have a textbook at all.  I surveyed students about the textbook I used last time (among other questions) and they almost all complained that it was painfully dull to read.  And yes, I knew it was going in.  But it was a comprehensive survey with good up-to-date history and images and was a bit stronger in the content than the other, more enjoyable-to-read (and, it must be said, prettier) text that was an option.  I also revised the order of things, and made it more thematic and less exclusively chronological. This is in part a response to the question I try to ask myself -- "What do I want students to remember from this class in five years?"  That question has answers in knowledge, although straight facts that people remember in five years are pretty limited unless they continue studying the material, in skills, which is where I think I am able to make the biggest impact, and attitudes.  I think I may structure the class next time much more as a series of units, with a historical framework at the forefront, and groups of readings for discussion and application as the majority of the activity.  The historical framework would be accompanied by a textbook, but a short straightforward (haha) history of Egypt, for which there are several good options. would be significantly cheaper than a comprehensive art of ancient Egypt text.  Then I could provide sets of readings from online resources and journals so that students would have specific experiences with particular periods and questions.  It leads me back to the online quizzes on readings that we discussed last week and that I am still mulling over.  But it is probably time to try.  The research and writing assignments (it is a "writing enhanced" class, which means a certain minimum requirement for length and revision practice) will have to be examined but I think pedagogically I am ready for trying a new approach.  I am sure I will let you know how it goes as I fight my way through it!

So the art book gets replaced by a history book, and the rest of the readings will not cost my students anything.  I hope it works.  It sets me up as more of the authority, making the connections that my students will not have a published source to provide, but it requires them to make the connections themselves, as well.  It may be a really productive experience for them.  If there are a few students who can think this way, it has the potential for a really strong group dynamic and a successful class.  Maybe I will chicken out?  But the textbook cost, the "boring" assigned reading, and the content that I might be able to cover and the transferability of knowledge and skill development are pushing me in that direction.  

Have you tried this?  Did it work?

What is the most expensive textbook you ever bought?  What is the most expensive one you ever assigned?  What were its strengths and weaknesses?  Did you think it was worth the money?  

I look forward to your input.

Originally posted to annetteboardman on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 11:28 AM PST.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Glad I don't have to do this ever again. (12+ / 0-)

    In recent years I've leaned towards selecting paperbacks because of the outrageous prices textbooks have.

  •  While I don't know that I've ever specifically (9+ / 0-)

    tracked how much each book cost, the most expensive ones have tended to be the heaviest, the thickest, and the ones you use the least of for a given class.  There simply is no way to cover 700+ pages of a given (medical) text in a single class, or even a year long class, really.  So you're paying for a book that will largely end up being a reference text, if you keep it after the class (And I keep all my textbooks.)

    I imagine most authors do this to create a single text that might be useful in all sorts of classes, with all sorts of curricula, but I don't recall ever using the same book in two different classes.  It may have happened, but if so, I don't recall.  So simply to cover my ADN and BSN nursing classes, I've literally accumulated probably a hundred to a hundred and fifty pounds of textbooks, of which we maybe ended up reading and discussing maybe 10-20 pounds worth tops while in the classes.  Now admittedly, I keep all my texts because I continue to read in them after the classes are over, but I imagine most folks don't, and don't appreciate spending the extra cash OR hauling around all the extra weight between classes.

    •  I used to teach a compressed summer semester (6+ / 0-)

      course in biochemistry, for majors in related subjects (cell bio, immunology, neurobiology etc.), and we covered almost all of Lehninger (1100 pages) in 8 weeks. It can be done, and done well, amazingly enough. However, the cell bio text I teach out of I really use only part of during the term.

      •  I'd have to guess that either (5+ / 0-)

        your students skimmed the work, that yours was the only class they had, or that they all hated you ;)

        I was generally taking 2-5 classes at a time, and they all handed out reading like candy.  If they'd all tried to cover as much as you appear to have, there would have been no physical way for me to even read everything once, much less retain any significant fraction thereof.

        •  :) Most of them had no more than two classes - (8+ / 0-)

          it was a compressed term, remember, so that is like having a normal load - and I had the best reviews of anyone who had ever taught the course. Upper 6.Xs out of 7. I taught it for 13 years. Importantly, the exams were lecture-based. I wanted the students to read the text, and it provided them with an additional spotlight on the topics they needed to learn, but they didn't have to memorize every word of it.

          In fact, they didn't have to memorize anything, except the structures of all the amino acids (without which any specific discussion of proteins becomes meaningless). I let them use my powerpoints, in pdf form, and anything they personally had written on those, during exams, but not their text. I could ask much more demanding questions that way - not mindless memorization stuff. They had to understand how biochemistry worked and be able to articulate that cleanly and clearly. ("A mutant chymotrypsin is found in which Asp 102 is replaced by asparagine. Will this enzyme have a higher rate of catalysis, a lower rate of catalysis, or is the rate of catalysis not discernible from the information given? Explain your answer in molecular detail." Memorizing what "Asp 102" does is pretty mindless. Looking at the active site of chymotrypsin and figuring out how the new amino acid will affect the process of catalysis, and being able to explain clearly why it will behave that way, was what I wanted.)

  •  I teach part of intro bio, and the text is $250 (8+ / 0-)

    or so, new. At least it has the virtue of being for two terms. My advanced class, though, also has a close-to-$200 book that I use only half of. Students often like to keep both of these texts as references - they're really good books - so that is one compensating factor. I've been trying to get the publisher of the advanced book to eliminate the semi-coverage of stuff that all the students have to know (first-year biochemistry) before they can start my class, but so far no luck.

    What I (plus my teammates in the intro course) have done with both classes is 1) to wait at least a year after publication before adopting the new edition so used copies are likely to be available, and 2) to send out complete information on the text for each course to the class as soon as pre-registration is complete for the term, to let students have the opportunity to buy the book used online. Our bookstore (Follett) actually sells the book at a higher price than the publisher, a practice I find appalling, so I really have no problem helping students avoid shopping there. The campus store also has not proved to be very good at finding used copies of our texts.

    Like you, I remember buying my books each term - a wonderful experience! All that knowledge about to be gained, the fresh, new-book smell... I always bought them new, too (child of privilege) astonishing the bookstore clerks, who were used to almost 100% requests for used copies.

    I dropped out of school for a year midway through (it was 1968 - what can I say?) and got a job in a textbook store :)

  •  Choosing and Creating textbooks (7+ / 0-)

    As a student, what I found annoying was when an expensive textbook was required but barely used. I can remember two examples in particular, a physics class that required two textbooks and never used the second one and a web design class I audited that barely used the expensive textbook. On the other hand, I've had classes where the teachers deliberately chose inexpensive books and/or used the previous version so that we could buy them used. While I do tend to save my books, I think the only one that's ever been used for more than one class was Cormen et al (Introduction to Algorithms), which I used for four classes over three degrees...but that's obviously the exception. At the graduate level, I've had professors teach without a textbook, just assigning papers for us to download, but that obviously works better for some subjects than others.

    As a PhD student I spent three years as the TA for Foundations of Computer Science. During that time we used three different textbooks, none of which I cared for; I spent the last few semesters thinking I should just write my own textbook. Four years later, I'm FINALLY finishing up the first volume and will be releasing it later this month as a Kindle book. I'm hoping it'll resolve several problems I've had:

    1) It is, in my admittedly biased opinion, easier to follow than other books on the same topic.

    2) I'm releasing it in multiple short volumes, allowing students to purchase only those sections they actually need (although once it's done I'll also collect them all into one book suited for teaching a complete course).

    3) I plan to price it at $2.99 for the individual volumes and $9.99 for the complete collection.

    My advantage over the traditional textbook publisher is that since this is something I'm doing on the side, I don't have to make a ton of money off of it (although I certainly wouldn't mind!) so I can afford to price it significantly lower than similar books. Of course, being an ebook helps with that, but even many electronic textbooks seem to go for $30-$60. If I need to make minor changes, existing Kindle books can simply be updated without students needing to purchase a new copy.

    If nothing else, perhaps I can save a few students from having to purchase $80 textbooks that they'll never use again.

  •  Ah…my pet peeve (6+ / 0-)

    is the text I'm forced to use to teach physics. I'm a "guest" in that department and have to do what they tell me. It's close to $300 with all kinds of (useless) ancillaries bundled in. The text itself is way overdone- a mishmash of colored blocks, different fonts, "learning paths", ..I can't figure it out, how can the students? And even if they take both physics 1 and 2 they only use about 1/2 the book. I know there are terrific online sources that would be free - and they include all kinds of animations and self tests. I secretly wonder if the dept chair has a crush on  the publisher's rep.

    Now in my own classes (a very specialized technology) I teach from web sources and my own notes that are self-published. There's a small charge to students for the notes (e-book) and that goes into a scholarship fund managed by our foundation. I don't make any money but I have the satisfaction of knowing my students have exactly the material they need and it can be updated at any time- and no one's getting rich off their student loans.

    beam me up Scotty- there's no intelligent life down here

    by ladybug4you on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 02:30:21 PM PST

  •  You Left Out Campus Bookstores - - (5+ / 0-)

    With the decline in sales, campus bookstores are creating more fixed contracts for multi-year use and also claiming "first dibs" for any course materials - - much like campus food services has first refusal for any catered event.

    That just adds another cumbersome layer to the process.

    What I like these days when I have maximum flexibility is to have no listed textbook and order super-cheapo outdated paper editions from discount distributors. Really, in an American Government intro text that has a new edition almost yearly - all that changes is a picture of Obama instead of Dubya.  And the difference in price is $100 vs $5.50. So we order the books first day of class with overnight charges - plus a couple of extra ones. The price may go up to $7.50 per student. Never had a single student balk.

    Of course, there may be bookstore or campus guidelines that prohibit such an approach. Especially, one organized by the instructor. But waiting for students to order their own books means mid-semester. Hah!

    The one drawback to this system is students who have aid packages that go directly to campus bookstores. Again, the bookstores are fighting for their lives in today's publishing environment and they do try to lock in as many structures as they can.

    PS - I also have a mixed opinion on saving money for students when I put out extra effort and then they drop $100 for a ticket to a concert. Gawd, I'm getting old.

  •  waaaay back in the day, it was my History of (3+ / 0-)

    Ancient Egypt text book that I used as a reliable sleep aid.

    Not the most expensive book but the most annoying one I ever had to purchase turned out to be available in pieces in it's separate articles and photos online.

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 02:34:24 PM PST

  •  I think that any required text should also be (7+ / 0-)

    purchased for the school library too, as some people really do try to use it. Once I didn't want to actually buy the textbook for Meteorology 101 that I was taking to fulfill a science requirement. So I went to the college library to get the 22nd edition, or at least the 21st. Nope. They stopped collecting at the 11th.
         If these could be kept at the reserve area in house then any student who cared enough could get access.

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 02:41:32 PM PST

  •  I try to avoid using textbooks (6+ / 0-)

    I teach several graduate courses.  Only in one class do I use a textbook and it is relatively cheap.

    For the writing classes, I tell my students I won't use the handbooks.  They are a huge rip off. If I had the energy, I would write a paper on how the way it presents grammar is not helpful for students. The only thing they are valuable for is how APA and MLA work, but that is available on line.

    I feel very fortunate I don't teach those science classes with textbooks costing $200.

    I may teach an introductory linguistics course in the next several years.  I will require a textbook and I fear how much it will cost.

    [Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security] do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

    by MoDem on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 03:07:01 PM PST

  •  use your LMS your campus uses Blackboard IIRC (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    or build a wikibook

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 03:34:59 PM PST

  •  a textbook should be so good that the student (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother, mmacdDE, ladybug53

    wants to keep it for life for reference. If not, it shouldn't be part of the class.

    It should also not make a difference which edition, and it should be reasonably priced.

    I recently bought a textbook that had been was in use from 1933 through the mid 80s unchanged. Over 400 pages, nothing other than chapters, no quizzes, no questions for thought, no general concepts at the end of chapters so students don't have to read.

    A textbook should be written by one of the world authorities on the subject, not a prof looking to sell books the easy way. A textbook should be not only readable but often engaging and insightful.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 04:04:47 PM PST

    •  Unfortunately (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ban nock, kurt, mamamedusa, ladybug53

      I suspect that, as a rule, the world authorities are busy writing research papers rather than textbooks. We need more people like Donald Knuth.

      •  world authorities should spend some time (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        writing for the general public. Look at what Krugman has done, I'll bet his textbooks are readable. I read great stuff by Wildlife researchers.

        “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

        by ban nock on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 08:42:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Considering how many incurious (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annetteboardman, ladybug53

      students there are, how books are a burden to people who live in small spaces and need to move, that the culture of books isn't something every student is raised with, and that not everyone who takes a class is necessarily interested in the content for the long haul, that is a pretty high bar to set. I'd never set it like that.

    •  That works for some subjects (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, mamamedusa

      but in technical subjects the books tend to be pretty worthless after a few years.

      That said, I do try to pick books that are basically reference books, so the students can keep them and get some use out of them after the class.

      I teach mostly web design/development stuff, so references are outdated pretty quickly.

  •  Why are you choosing textbooks? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Temmoku, ladybug53

    Because your board and adminstration are neandertal?

    You can build any book you'd like. Pearson, National Science Teachers Assn, and any number of other sources can easily and cheaply build you the book you want.

    •  Or you can do it yourself, (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, Temmoku, frankzappatista, ladybug53

      using the internet. At least, in English class you can. All the classics are out there, and for contemporary essays, nothing in the textbook market comes close.

      I tried it first with an online class about five years ago. It went so well, I never ordered textbooks again.

      Then the tech people put a big screen with broadband in the classroom, and we watched  poets chatting about their work, political candidates demonstrating rhetorical techniques in real time, and even an amusing animated Oedipus (after they read and performed the actual play, of course.)

      Free lit. Excellent.

    •  This depends on the discipline (8+ / 0-)

      My field is image heavy and image reproduction is frightfully expensive. And my specialized area is constantly changing, so a textbook from fifty years ago, as was suggested above, will have a lot of racist and religious assumptions unquestioned.

      •  Do you have visual resources on campus? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        or access to a subscription collection? I know they might not be the greatest, but it might help with the cost of the textbooks; distribute the visual resources a bit for the most common courses, or for the courses where the textbooks are the most expensive and the cost/benefit ratio is the least worthwhile.

      •  That's exactly why you want the Internet. (0+ / 0-)

        You don't want a textbook. Even the best publishers use editors who are out of their field and out of their league.

  •  I make readers now (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mamamedusa, ladybug53

    It's not the cost so much as the content and presentation of the textbooks that deter me, so I collect my own articles and bind my own readers.

    The most expensive textbook I've used was around $100. I don't think it was worth it, and I felt pressed to use many readings that I wouldn't have otherwise to get the student's value out of it.

    I do require a reader's manual, about $30 but cheaper online.

    Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

    by mahakali overdrive on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 07:21:02 PM PST

    •  I may use Jstor for something (3+ / 0-)

      Like this but I will have to figure out how to assure kids do the readings.

      •  If you have a copy shop in your area (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        they usually will compile databased articles, although I'm not sure about Jstor specifically. If for educational purposes, it's not copyright violation if you are only using bits and pieces for teaching, as I understand it (otherwise my copy shop would be out of business -- really common practice here). I use bits from books, databases, articles online, all kinds of things. It comes out to less for the students too. Usually $30-$40 at the most.

        Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

        by mahakali overdrive on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 08:50:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Three comments about textbooks: (3+ / 0-)

    From my dad: "I didn't pay for any of those books on my shelf. I'm a college professor. The publishers send out the books for free to hundreds or thousands of professors hoping that they'll assign the book for their class. It doesn't cost the publisher much if several hundred professors tell their students they must have this book." Professors get the books free. Students have to pay.

    From me (when I was in college). "I paid $70 for this book! And now you're gonna buy it back at the end of the semester for $7? OK. That's fine. I'll never look at it again. And seven bucks is better than nothing."

    From my boss (when I worked at a used bookstore): "Always buy "Elements of Style" by Strunk and White. Almost every Freshman English Class requires it. We build up our inventory, then in August and September, we sell every copy we have. It's supply and demand."

    "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

    by Dbug on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 10:38:24 PM PST

    •  On Strunk and White (0+ / 0-)

      For the students I teach, it is not appropriate.

      [Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security] do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

      by MoDem on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 02:24:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It depends a lot on the discipline, (3+ / 0-)

    and yours is a tough one that way if only because of the requirement for high-quality images.  Mine – mathematics – is at the other end of the spectrum.  For some math courses you can now find adequate, if not great, free textbooks on-line; I taught both calculus and introductory discrete math from such material before I retired three years ago.  One can also put together a decent liberal arts math course from freely available material.  Before the internet I even went so far as to write my own text for one more advanced course.  Longhand.  (I admit, though, that that was at least as much because I couldn’t find a book that I liked at all.)  These simple-minded techniques aren’t really available to you, unfortunately.  The approach that you describe sounds workable, though, and I’ll be interested to hear how it works out.

    I think that the slide rule that I bought for $20 or so as a freshman in 1965 was more expensive than any textbook that I ever bought as a student, undergraduate or graduate.  This book, from which I taught once when it was new (not my choice, but the author had taught the first term of the course, so I was stuck), is now $273.48 at Amazon; I don’t think that it was nearly that expensive in 1996, but it was certainly one of the more expensive that I’ve used, especially relative to prices in general at the time.

  •  10 yrs ago, I think I had a 120 Dollar book (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wmspringer, ladybug53

    Trying to remember which one it was. What's really insane is that I often find expensive books in a few years for pennies on the dollar, at thrift stores and half price book stores.

    I have an old book on Oil Well Stimulation that was probably closer to 300 dollars new at one point. Paid a dollar for it at a thrift store. I have found numerous history books on sale at various second hand book stores for under 12 dollars and I know that at one time they went for 3 times that, more if they are hard backs.

    Text Book Costs are part of what is killing the America Student.

    Perhaps some professors should rebel and go to primary sources that are older, and perhaps are no longer under copyright or available in cheaper reprints.

    You are in a tough spot with art, because like you pointed out you need a higher quality of image. Perhaps assigning students to view large, good-quality images at the reference section of the college library might be part of what saves cost.  Pick books that are too big to steal. Something that could serve as a base of a podium. ;)

    So much of Art history took place during various theocracies, that utilizing the fancy family bibles with the full color plates is another option. You could keep a couple in your room, and the library could keep one or two in their reference section, so they can see some works by the old masters.

    Check with local Orthodox Churches, some in the United States, import old stained glass windows from decommissioned churches in Europe. They are also, often filled with good reproductions of Iconography, and more. I am sure a call from a professor would get your class a tour from one of their priests.

    And don't forget to check the offerings at your local art museum. They can give student discounts or if you make field trips, there might be a bigger discounts through your institution. Or even a limited 1 week pass or semester pass or something.

    "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

    by GreenMother on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 08:21:46 AM PST

  •  My strategies so far: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, ladybug53

    I haven't been able to find an alternative to a textbook for my clinical course. I've considered using something like Our Bodies, Ourselves for an accessible guide to women's health and then using classtime to add the discipline-specific material. There's just too much specialized knowledge that students need as a reference, though. A consumer-oriented resource just isn't going to have the degree of technical detail a future health professional needs.

    I do have the course structured so that they read every single page of that monster, though. They have brief quizzes on the LMS due before the class meeting in which we cover the assigned content, which keeps most of them current on the reading. I use class meetings for problem-based learning-- primarily case studies-- that assumes they're already familiar with the content.

    I am currently using a textbook I really like, but which is stupidly expensive, for the 200-level support course. I probably could pull together online materials for that one, but the publisher's support materials are actually really helpful. The students have access to an online simulation that has been, so far, the most popular element of the course. This particular book works from a global/cross-cultural perspective, which is rare for this content area but very very helpful for this particular course. I'm able to build from this already broad perspective to an even broader one with supplemental A/V materials. I don't know if I could get the students talking about how concepts of human development apply for children who are gender nonconforming if I had to start from "this is what culture is."

    When I was still teaching an interdisciplinary seminar, I was successful at getting away from textbooks. I used Our Bodies, Ourselves, since the course wasn't geared for future health professionals, and then assigned scholarly articles I knew would be available to students full-text through the library's databases. I used short weekly reader-response assignments to encourage students to actually read the materials. If I ever get to teach the seminar again, I'll probably keep that basic structure but scale back the amount reading and work on strategies to promote deeper reading.

  •  I've given up on requiring textbooks (4+ / 0-)

    simply because of the costs for the students. Instead I make the textbook optional. I also tell students they can use any other textbook or older edition they can find, though it's up to them to determine and read the appropriate sections as needed. I then act as if no one is reading a textbook (which is probably the case), and so make sure to give all the important names/dates/historical context in lectures (I teach history).

    Instead of required textbooks, I assign readings that are cheap paper editions or online (free) editions of primary source books. Students in my classes thus usually spend less than $50/semester.

    I also use quite a lot of art in my classes, and there I find the web a wonder of possibilities. Speaking of which, have you tried the Web Gallery of Art? It doesn't help for something like Egypt, of course, but it's great for European art history.  

  •  I bought used books (3+ / 0-)

    We had to be a bit disciplined and try to buy fairly early because the used books in decent condition would sell first.

    Fully 75% of my textbook purchases were of used books, which I would take care of and then turn around and sell back to the campus book store for the next students who needed them.  But about 10-20% of my used books could not be sold back because they were being phased out of use.  Overall, this was a great way to go.

    At the time the University book store was serious about making that system work and there weren't many teachers abusing the students with unnecessary textbook expenses (or supplementing their income by writing their own textbooks).

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 12:03:47 PM PST

  •  How about Elementary Ed? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have really enjoyed this thoughtful discussion! My background is in pre-K  through 12. I worked with computer based education from 1975. One of the programs was from Westinghouse called PLAN and I found it to be remarkably effective considering the rudimentary level of the technology at that time.

    The students completed modules which were tested using mark-sense cards. Those cards were loaded into a card reader at the end of each day that was connected to an acoustic coupler modem and sent to a mainframe over the phone line. The next morning the modem would transmit the results to a line printer which I could then review to provide additional individualization based on that prior day's results.

    The educational materials consisted of teacher guides with corresponding pamphlet sized texts for the students to use to guide them through the activity (history, science, math, reading, social studies etc.).

    That was 40 years ago and here we are talking about the price of textbooks?

    I also need to point out that the El-Ed textbook racket is rotten to the core. The price per student is grossly inflated and the testing materials and teachers guides are so constraining intellectually and procedurally cumbersome that they IMHO are worse than useless.

    Here's what I advocate:

    Web and/or tablet based drill and practice for didactic, rote learning foundations (essentials) and web based access to detailed material, learning modules etc. and classroom instruction based on problem solving, team building and affinity group magnet activities.

    Just my 2 cents but I may elaborate more in a diary sometime soon.

    Thanks for lighting a fire under my aging butt!

  •  An old reference that I was amazed to find! (0+ / 0-)

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