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“To Be Honest I’m Not Sure If We Have a Textbook”

Hybrid Pedagogy – Maura A. Smale – Undergraduate Access to Course Reading – “Faculty and staff don’t often know how hard it is for students to get their course materials. I’m a library director and professor at New York City College of Technology (City Tech), and I worry about student access to required course readings. Our college is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, and most of the CUNY students I’ve spoken with did not begrudge the need to purchase textbooks and other materials in college. For some students the requirement to pay for course books came as a surprise because in high school, all books are provided for them. However, student budgets were limited, even if they anticipated textbook costs. Students made choices about whether and how to acquire their course reading in part based on their perceived utility of the reading for that course. They evaluated multiple factors, including how — and even whether — the reading was likely to be used by themselves and their instructors in their courses, as well as their own interest in the course. Many students did not buy their required course readings at the beginning of the semester, and instead waited to attend the first few class sessions to see whether they truly needed to buy the book. One second-semester City Tech student was very concise when describing their strategy for accessing the required reading for one course, telling me “I’ll get it when we use it.” Others pointed out that many instructors shared their lecture slides with students, uploading the slides to the learning management system or providing other digital access, and that the lecture slides essentially replicated the content of their textbooks. For these students the choice was clear: purchasing the textbook would not give them any advantages in their work for the course, so they did not feel compelled to spend money on the textbook…”

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