Dropping the textbook

27 Jul

The price of college textbooks has been going up non stop since I started teaching many, many years ago. Not just going up, but reaching astronomic proportions. $150 for a book? And textbook companies keep putting out new editions that are practically the same, but that make it impossible for students to even sell their books back at the end of the semester. This has bothered me for a while. Put that together with the fact that, for languages at least, there are now so many available resources online that are actually better suited for our students that I’ve decided to drop the textbook in a couple of my courses this semester. The online resources have the added advantage that are more current than any textbook could ever be. OK, so where do you start if you want to jump ship and drop the textbook? Let’s see four examples of things that can be done.

  1. I just discovered recently, through twitter, this amazing project: Kansas University open-access digital-learning environment, Acceso. According to their website “Acceso is intended as a complete, interactive curriculum for intermediate-level learners of Spanish.” Its units are based on different areas/countries in the Spanish-speaking world, and I have to say it is an unbelievable project in many ways. It is already very well organized, it uses many different types of media, it’s very current, and as an instructor, you can request access to additional materials if you want to use it for your course. I’m definitely looking forward to using this resource. Because the units are divided according to countries, you can also just use whatever you may need for your class. But I believe it’s a great option for a complete course.
  2. From Colorado University at Boulder, we have this wonderful Spanish Refresher Course.  It is just for three weeks of work, but it’s a nice example also of how to use a simple platform like Blogger to create a very complete course page. I like that the topics this time are organized according to current event topics. Not only are these materials great, but they can serve as a model to follow for your own course.
  3. Dr. Donna Shelton, from Oklahoma State University, has created this wiki for her Intermediate Conversation course. I love how she has also added graphic elements with Glogster to make it look and feel like a real adventure-course. The Google Voice area is particularly useful for any conversation course. I myself think I may do something very similar this year for one of the courses for which I will not have textbook. (NOTE: she just told me that she is in the process of moving it to Blackboard, so it may be a bit messy).
  4. I already use in many of my courses this Spanish Grammar Book compiled by Dr. Enrique Yepes, from Bowdoin University. It covers most topics any university student of Spanish should know, with English explanations and interactive exercises for practice. I’m very thankful to Dr. Yepes for this resource.

There are many other resources that can be used now for classes. I have listed some other ones here. I’ll also let you know what I end up doing in my courses.

Note, though, that I still do use a textbook for my beginners course. It’s actually a very old book, Dos Mundos, but I still find it relevant and fun. I do not make my students purchase the ancillary materials, like the workbook, as I think they are not very interesting. Instead we do other activities like blog writing, recordings, quizzes, etc. But I don’t mean to say that all textbooks are bad. Each situation is different.

Have you dropped the textbook? Do you recommend it? What additional material will you be using?

4 thoughts on “Dropping the textbook

  1. I totally agree about the price of textbooks and the fact that it is a problem for some students. This fall I am trying a different solution for two classes…self publishing an ebook and putting it on amazon for kindle sales. I will have the student download the kindle app so they can read the book on their laptops. Bob

  2. Pingback: Have your students read the news: NULU Languages | Professor Munday's Blog

  3. Pingback: TalkAbroad: A new way to have students practice with native speakers | Professor Munday's Blog

Leave a Reply