Professors find a way without textbooks

This first two weeks of class are by far the busiest times for the Central Michigan University's Bookstore employees as students pick up the required materials for classes.

Some professors, however, do not require or assign textbooks for their classes, reducing the cost students have to pay at the bookstore. Claudia Douglass, interim Vice Provost of Academic Affairs, said professors are not required to assign textbooks and may choose alternate techniques of presenting information in place of a book.

Richard Mower, associate professor of meteorology, is among those who do not use a textbook.

“Over the years, I’ve generated a lot of the material myself,” he said. “There is also a lot of information for free on the web, so there is little advantage to having the students buy a textbook.”

Mower has been doing research in his field during the time he has taught at CMU and, as an alternative to a text, he shares his research information with his classes instead.

With many textbooks on the market, there are some instances where a textbook does not exist for a specific class, or sometimes the textbook suggested for the course may not fill the instructor's needs.

Mower said he has not been able to find a textbook that follows his teaching techniques and syllabus.

“I’ve never really found a textbook that covers the material in the order that I typically do things,” he said.

With the Internet continually evolving, supplying tools and resources for almost every need, more and more professors are almost solely using the web to supplement their teaching.

Anthony Feig, assistant professor of geoscience education, is responsible for teaching GEO 105, physical geography.

Feig said he does not require a textbook for the class, and instead uses similar means to teach his class. Like Mower, Feig implements the Internet as a tool for his class, as do other professors in the department.

When there seems to be no viable option for a textbook, Feig said professors share helpful websites with each other and he often uses these sites in teaching his class.

“Another professor does an ‘Earth Science Website of the Week’,” Feig said. “These are tremendous online resources that are free for us to use.”

Many of these websites are interactive, and Feig, as well as some of his colleagues, urge students to use them as an alternate way of learning.

Money talks

Mower said books that would be required for his classes can cost more than $100, and all the information needed can be found online.

“It may not be advisable for every course,” Mower said. “But for my introductory course, everything is available for free on the Web.”

While some situations exist for professors to get away with not using a textbook, there are some classes that would not be able to get by without an assigned textbook.

In some of Feig’s upper level courses, he uses books that help in getting students to think and create conversations and discussions during class.

“There are particular works that are not traditional textbooks – they do not have that style,” Feig said. “The purpose is to get the students to read something they typically would not. This results in a whole lot of thinking that happens not related to me lecturing.”

However, most students find no problem with professors dropping textbooks, and for a number of different reasons.

Molly Slocum, a junior from Coldwater, said she took an English class that did not have a textbook requirement. Slocum said the class still ran smoothly without one, and it also helped her save some money in the process.

“We instead read many online articles,” Slocum said. “The professors had us research these articles and we used them for research papers. It was nice not having to buy a textbook but still be able to learn effectively.”

Kentwood sophomore Matt VanValkenburg didn't need a textbook for a business course he took. He said the lack of a book actually helped him in the class.

“There were a lot of handouts, PowerPoints and we did a lot of computer work,” VanValkenburg said. “More students were involved in the classroom. It was focused less outside of the classroom and focused more inside the classroom with interacting and being involved.”

Despite some students expressing appreciation when a book is not required, the reaction is still mixed from an instructor's perspective.

“I’m not a chapter a week kind of guy,” Feig said. “On the SOS forms, some students thank me, while some say I should have required a textbook.”


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