The No-textbook Challenge: Using web resources to replace the College Text

Is it possible to use Open Educational Resources  and other open education materials to replace student textbooks for an online college course? Find free content on the web, eliminating the need for  students to buy textbooks?  Yes! –  at least for the course United States Government which I put to the test. I put myself up to the  No Textbook Challenge – to replace textbooks for a given General Education college three credit course as described in my last post. In this post, I’ll outline the context of the course, and the engaging, comprehensive and free instructional resources which I’ve incorporated into the online course delivered via Moodle (the  learning management platform our college uses).

 The context
I use the Dick, Carey and Carey instructional model (consisting of 9 phases) for design and re-design of our online courses. There are nine phases in the model – though with the re-design we focus on phase 7 and 8, developing the instructional strategy and selecting the instructional materials.

Background: Course Objectives:
To put the course in perspective, the course is a survey course designed to introduce students to the institutions and processes of the American political system.

  • Explain the basic concepts on which the American governmental system was based
  • Describe the workings of the American governmental system
  • Outline the process by which a bill becomes a law
  • Explain the various civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution
  • Describe the basic functions, organization, and powers of the Congress, the presidency, and the judiciary

Instructional Materials:
Instructional materials are part of the Instructional Strategy and are essentially the content that supports the course objectives. Other materials may include materials (resources) such as, workbooks, textbooks, case studies, web resources, lecture notes, simulations etc. For this US Government course, we use pre-recorded video lectures that covers some of the course topics, delivered over 8 modules, and text books, (before the re-design).

The texts we replaced:
1) American Government, Brief Edition, 9th Ed. by James Q. Wilson – $76.73 (paper back), $69.06 (Kindle edition)
2) The Federalist Papers by Charles Kessler – $7.99

English: Title page of the first printing of t...

With: open content and web resources: – Free
The resources below are part of the instructional strategy –  the instructor uses these as content to support learning objectives. Note that student application and synthesis comes through online forum discussions, group work, mini assignments, quizzes and essay assignments where the student applies the content. These sources are not the sole method of learning, it is instructor involvement and guidance that promotes meaningful and authentic learning.

Federalist Papers: : This  awesome site, features 100 milestone documents of American history presented by the National Archives. Best of all the site lets the user view and zoom in on the images of original documents, including all of the federalist papers, i.e. Federalist no. 10, as it appeared in the New York Daily Advertiser, November 22, 1787.

American Government: Topics:

I  The Constitution of United States
The United States Constitution – Constitution Day Resources, Library of Congress
The Declaration of Independence – The History Channel – video
Constitution development & Principles: Video lesson: OER, US Government
Federalism: Video Lesson: OER:
Library of US Historical Documents:

II Political Beliefs and Behaviors
Political Parties:
Interest Groups and their influence: other, list of select groups
Public Policy:
The Media and its Influence: Pew Research Center
Voting Behavior of the Public: other

III Institutions of the Government: Congress, Presidency, Bureaucracy and Courts
Electoral College – how it works: The Kahn Academy
Three Branches of Government: Harry Truman Library Resources
The Nature of Bureaucracy: OER video lesson
Legislative Simulation –
Presidential Election History:
The White House
US Senate: Live Stream of US Capitol

IV Civil Rights and Liberties
The Bill of Rights:
Civil Rights: Landmark Cases:
How a bill becomes Law: OER

Glossary of Political Economic Terms:

This course used for this no textbook challenge was [very] conducive to open content. Not all courses will lend themselves to open and free content, though I firmly believe that with detailed and careful research, there is much content available on the web for free. I do want to reiterate, that the resources we listed do not stand on their own – the selection and choice of tools require careful pedagogical planning and development of learning activities and assessments. And, the final component of successful learning is instructor guidance and instruction. Check back in a few days for another post on other textbook options.

Keep Learning 🙂

[When] Will e-textbooks become Mainstream?

istock photo

It’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ digital will replace those heavy, inert, static, dated, collection of pages also known as college textbooks. I was somewhat surprised to learn that sales of digital textbooks in 2010 was a mere 1% of the US college textbook market.

When will Digital Textbooks become mainstream?
The [billion] dollar question (in 2006  college students spent $4.9 billion on textbooks) – when will adoption rates be such that textbooks will be relegated to storage lockers, basements and garage sales?  Sales of digital books need to reach a point when it becomes viable for publishers to adopt a new production and distribution model. Publishers are already preparing and experimenting with the digital format as I’ve covered in a previous post, with learning solutions aplenty – (I have concerns and reservations about publishers digital programs, more about this in my next post).

E-textbook on an iPad

According to Xplana‘s post, digital textbook sales will grow by over 200%, yet this still only represents 18% of the market. Does this number seem low to you? I agree. But the textbook industry is complex –  is symbiotic with the higher-education bubble we are in. One dimension (one of many) influencing textbook sales is student demand, though arguably it is the textbook publishers that dictate demand (but this is for another post). Factors that influence student demand:

  • Availability. Currently only a fraction of college textbooks are available. I searched for e-textbooks for the graduate classes I’m taking this semester without any luck  :(.
  • Proliferation of e-reader, iPad and mobile devices.
  • Interactive software (apps) specifically designed for e-textbooks are enhancing the user experience, adding value.
  • Increase in online learning enrolments, which drives demand for digital learning products, and often offers alternatives to the college bookstore channel.
  • Students are price sensitive. Used textbook sales are not new, but renting of textbooks is. The textbook rental market is a new business model that is exploding. CourseSmart, a provider of e-textbooks for rent and purchase, is a joint venture of five large college textbook publishers, reported a 400% increase in sales in 2009 from the year before.

It may be a while before e-textbooks become mainstream – but I predict it will be well within five years, and it won’t be the model as we are seeing now, it will be quite different. Check back in a couple of days for my next post to find out my thoughts on the e market.

In the meantime visit this post at e-Literate to learn more about digital textbooks and learn about a Webinar this Friday, February 10th, at 11:00 am PST on The Future of Digital Textbooks in U.S. Education (And What That Means for You)Click here to register and/or to learn more.

Keep Learning 🙂