ASU instructors are using alternative resources in the face of rising textbook prices to help their students’ pocketbooks.
As students find cheaper bookstore alternatives, some professors are taking a new approach to teaching that allows them to depart from traditional printed textbooks.
“I make a point, which is that the textbook is optional,” said Matthew Croucher, an economics instructor at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “[My students] don’t feel obligated to buy it to get a good grade. Coming to class is the important thing. Taking notes is the important thing.”
While Croucher made textbooks optional for his course, Bob Robson, a professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, has done away with textbooks in his class altogether.
“When I was structuring the course and how I was going to teach it … I wanted to go out further into the Web world and use technologies that people are using more and more now than they ever did before,” he said.
Robson, who teaches a police accountability course at the Downtown campus, said while other factors contributed to making his class “bookless,” the wallets of his students weighed in heavily.
“The cost of taking the class has obviously risen due to the economy,” he said. “I felt that I could [teach the class], sparing the student the burden of that cost [for books].”
Most students feel they must buy every textbook, Croucher said, a mentality that stems from the fact that books are nearly always required in high school.
“Now we’re in a lecture format where we can cover more material than what is in the textbook,” he said.
Independent book publishers are also a part of a unique initiative: attempting to implement open-source textbooks in classrooms across the country.
Cultural anthropology senior Jason Donofrio is president of the Arizona Student Public Interest Research Group, which is pushing for the use of open-source textbooks at more than 50 campuses across the country.
“Open-source textbooks are licensed to be free online, and it is affordable for students to print them,” he said. “You can reformat them any way you’d like, while you cannot reformat PDFs and other files that professors put online and on Blackboard. This gives the students options to access them [for free] or pay a small fee to print them.”
How larger textbook publishers like McGraw-Hill will respond to this initiative remains to be seen, but Donofrio hopes it will allow independent publishers to create competition.
“The idea behind it is that the market is slowly starting to expand,” he said. “Right now there are no competitors, … so if that company wants to come out with a new edition, students are forced to buy it.”
PIRG is pitching its campaign to professors all over the country to get them to pledge their use of open-source textbooks.
“The more students demand these open-source textbooks and the more professors that endorse and use these texts,” Donofrio said, “the market will expand and the quality of these open-source books will grow.”
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