Sample Alt-Textbook Projects

To provide a better picture of the type of projects that were funded for the fall 2012 and fall 2011 semesters, here are some examples:

Fall/Spring 2012-13

Project One
Owen Ware, Assistant Professor

This year I was fortunate to join the alternate textbook project for my course PHL 3222, ‘Contemporary Ethical Theory’. While this is a required course for philosophy majors at Temple University, many non-philosophy majors also take it as an elective. On average twenty-five students enroll each year.  In the previous year, students were required to purchase three texts. The total came up to roughly $100. Wanting to avoid this cost, I was motivated to find new ways to give my students access to top quality research.

Switching over to digital sources proved surprisingly easy. Most of the readings I assigned came from journals that students had access to through the library system. On Blackboard I organized the readings for each week in the ‘Content’ folder (normally one article per class). From the questionnaire responses I received at the end of semester, many students reported to experience better organization in having access to course material online. I suppose this reflects one way in which students today have an active “digital life-style”. Since they are already comfortable reading texts on their laptops, iPads, or other portable devices, having access to course content in PDF format made for a more seamless learning experience.

As a teacher, I also found it liberating to assign readings myself, instead of having to follow a pre-set textbook. By playing an executive role at the preparation stage, I felt like I was creating my own course anthology, but without the limitations traditional anthologies impose. For example, I was free to select recently published or forthcoming articles, as well as emphasize themes that are often ignored or marginalized by texts seeking to maximize coverage. My students also responded well to this. Many said they were grateful to work through issues not usually discussed in courses of a similar nature.

From this one experience, I can safely say that my shift to digital sources was beneficial. Needless to say, my students were happy with it. When I told them they wouldn’t have to buy any texts, I was greeted with a round of applause.

Fall 2011

Project One
Bob Munkacsy, Adjunct Instructor
School of Communications and Theater, Advertising Department

I teach a one thousand level course required of all students majoring in Advertising called “Introduction to Advertising Research.” The textbook used was a spiral-bound packet printed by TU Duplicating Services, that consisted of several chapters from different books, the most contemporary of which was published in 2001. Printing Services made these packets available to students for $70.

I found that the 30 students in my section found the reliability of the subject matter doubtful because the text mentioned outdated concepts including the “new technology” of fax machines and the possibility that cable television was just a passing fad. Many students did not purchase the packet and those that did complained that it was dense reading and not all that useful anyway.

For the Fall 2011 semester I replaced the packet by building a structured list of readings and assignments on BlackBoard:

• with current articles from digitally archived journals available through

• through open access textbooks and other content available online

• using my own lecture notes to fill in the gaps

My assessment found that the positives outweighed the negatives. I will never again teach my Intro to Ad Research class with a textbook that needs to be purchased. The project exceeded my expectations and was a huge success. The readings were always up to date, students found they were only a click away and they class texts were free. I have replaced the textbook in another class I teach, “Advertising Strategies and Positioning” with the open/alternative text format for Spring 2012 and intend to push the merits of this format to anyone in my department who will listen.

Vanessa Yingling, Assistant Professor
Department of Kinesiology

The course was Biomechanics of Physical Activity Kin 3202, a core kinesiology course for all majors in the department. Typical enrollment has grown to over 100 students per term. The course textbook was Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise 2nd Edition Peter McGinnis, Human Kinetics, and sold for $83.00.  The book chapters for my course were moved to Blackboard and organized by week for ease of student access.  The content and lecture for the Mechanical Properties section of the course was put on Google Sites to determine if students preferred content on one site that was outside of Blackboard in order to make access with handheld devices or pads easier.

The student feedback was mainly positive and open of using other ways to distribute content instead of a textbook. However, the some feedback indicate that some students still would prefer a textbook to the pdf copies on Bb.  Many benefits of using open access may include a lower cost of education, newer materials, engaging more senses and increasing the time on task for students. There are infinite possibilities to traditional textbooks for course content and on the whole students seem to be open to alternatives. However, the challenge that I have found is learning about all the new technologies that emerge and trying them all in a systematic way to ensure that they are benefiting the learning experience for the student.  I look forward to continuing to explore this area.

Keith Quesenberry, Adjunct Instructor
School of Communications & Theater, Department of Advertising

Morality, Law & Advertising is a required senior-level writing intensive course for Advertising majors that covers the legal and ethical constraints on advertising practice. I had been using a 2007 Law & Advertising textbook for years. But it was outdated, copy heavy and always a criticism in my student evaluations. I rebuilt the course without it, but covered the same information, writing assignments and exams. The new course delivers course content through online lessons. I found new sources for the concepts, laws and regulations and provided hyperlinks with reference to the original documents from government, trade or free reference websites. Weekly textbook chapter reading was replaced with supplemental readings for an equal reading load.

In the end, participation, overall grades and student evaluations improved. One student said, “I feel that not having a book did not hinder the learning material, and proved affective and allowing for more contemporary updates.” Dropping the textbook accomplished more for students than saving $65.95. Different sources exposed them to a variety of viewpoints opening doors to critical thinking in a more engaging and student centered course.

Elvis Wagner, Assistant Professor
College of Education, Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology in Education Dept.

The course I taught in conjunction with the alternative textbook project is “Innovations in Foreign Language Education”. This course focuses on pedagogy and methods for foreign language teachers, and is a requirement for students seeking teacher certification in a foreign language (e.g., Spanish, French).

In previous semesters I had used an edited volume as the textbook. I was generally dissatisfied with the book, because while some of the chapters are very good and relevant for my students, many of the chapters are of inferior quality, or are simply not relevant for the context of the class. However, there really are not any other textbooks on the market that would serve the needs of my students. In previous semesters, I had assigned about 18 of the 41 chapters in the book. In the past I have also supplemented the book by assigning readings from research journals (e.g., Modern Language Journal, Foreign Language Annals). The textbook currently sells for $43.75.

For this project, I decided to continue using part of this textbook, but without requiring students to buy it. I identified the highest quality and most relevant chapters–representing about 20% of the overall book. We determined that it was a fair use of copyrighted materials.  I had the book put on reserve at the Library, and also asked the library to scan the chapters and put on them on course reserves for my course. Since no other students but my own can access the course, it further supports fair use. I supplemented these readings with additional articles from scholarly journals. I had done this in previous semesters, but this semester I used a much larger amount of supplementary materials. Because the library subscribes to the electronic versions of these journals, the students could easily access these articles, and they could either read the PDFs, or download and print them. I uploaded the PDFs to my BlackBoard course, allowing easy access to the students.

I surveyed the 22 students about their experience, and student feedback was unanimously positive. Students appreciated not having to buy the textbook (and only 2 students reported that they actually did buy it). Students reported that they appreciated the use of journal articles as reading material, and that they benefitted greatly from the article critique assignments that I incorporated. Students also provided useful feedback about the reading materials. Based on this feedback, I have decided to assign even fewer chapters from the textbook in future classes. In addition, I have decided to keep virtually all of the supplementary readings, although I plan to look for alternatives for at least 2 of these readings, which were not rated as highly by the students.

As the instructor, I was much more satisfied with the readings I assigned this semester in comparison to those that I had assigned previously. In the past, I tended to assign chapters from the textbook that were inferior to outside journal readings, in part because I felt obligated to “cover” the textbook since I had required students to buy it. By not requiring students to buy the textbook, I was freer to find alternative readings that better met the needs of the students in the class.





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