Wednesday, September 12, 2012
You Make the Call!
This week I discovered that some advisors on campus have been encouraging students to sign up for online sections of certain classes with the understanding that if they decide they don’t like the online format, they can switch to onsite versions during the add/drop period. It’s a way to stick a toe in the water. At that level, the idea makes sense. (It assumes an endless supply of onsite seats available, but that’s another issue.) So a student who signs up for, say, Psych 101 online, and who realizes early that the format just isn’t right for him, can switch to an onsite section of the same course if he moves quickly enough.
At the same time, publishers are bundling online access codes with textbooks, and selling the pair (code and textbook) less expensively than selling each separately. From the publisher’s perspective, it’s a way to short-circuit the used book market, from which publishers make nothing. From the bookstore’s perspective, it’s a way to save some money for online students; since they need both the code and the book anyway, the discount for bundling seems like a humane gesture. From the perspective of the successful online student, the bundle is a convenience and a moneysaver, at least until she can’t sell the book back.
But for the student who tries the online class and then wants to switch to onsite, there’s no refund for used access codes. Check out the course briefly, and that money is spent. To the extent that access code bundling has defeated the used book market, even the book may not be returnable. Most courses here don’t have common textbooks across sections, so if Professor Smith’s online class assigned “Intro to Psychology” by B.F. Deal with an accompanying access code, but Professor Jones’ onsite class assigned “Psychology and You” by G.D. Busybody, then the student is out the cost of both books.
And that’s without even considering ebooks and how the used market doesn’t work with those.
Any single one of the decisions outlined above makes sense in a vacuum. Shouldn’t every professor be allowed to choose the text she considers most effective? Shouldn’t the publishers be allowed to bundle their products as they see fit? Shouldn’t students be able to comparison shop sections and formats?
Individually, it’s possible to defend each of those. But together, the picture becomes crazy.
In a nutshell, that’s the dilemma of administration. Say to anyone in that chain of circumstances that they have to do something differently, and they’ll wonder why you’re being so mean. Forcing a common textbook comes across as stifling academic freedom; forcing ‘unbundling’ saddles committed students with higher costs; forcing students to stay in a format that obviously isn’t working for them is setting them up to fail. What is the administration up to?
As a kid, I used to watch “This Week in Baseball,” a highlight show. Once in each episode, they’d have a feature called “You Make the Call,” in which they showed a complicated play from the previous week and asked the viewer what call the umpire should have made. (Anyone familiar with the infield fly rule knows how complicated things can get.) After the commercial break, they’d
In the spirit of the late Mel Allen, I’ll channel “You Make the Call” here. Wise and worldly readers, what’s the fairest and most reasonable way to cut through this dilemma without violating academic freedom, the rights of students to make choices, and the need for the bookstore to remain solvent? You make the call!
(Also, students who think they are going to switch might try getting away without using the access code until they know. You can usually return unused access codes.)
I've noticed a couple of the larger publishers in my field are moving to a system where the content can be integrated directly into my University-provided course shell. Since my course shell is open to all students in the class, it should be possible for a student to enroll, check out the basic outlines of the course, and drop if they choose to, without ever having to access any of the publisher's proprietary content on the publisher's system.
Frankly, much of the online content that publishers provide (at least in my field) is lousy. I don't use it because I can come up with something better pretty easily, for free. Just like I never use the publisher's test banks, either. Trained manatees could write better test questions. And although I have had some colleagues who simply adopt the publisher's material lock, stock, and barrel, my opinion is that this is a lazy approach to designing an online course, and people who do that probably shouldn't be teaching online, anyway. (though I realize, DD, that you can't say that without causing other problems - but maybe some of your faculty can say it for you.)
That, and your college's advisers need to be trained so that they understand and communicate the possible consequences of the advice they're giving. Students lack the background info to realize this could be an issue, which is why we provide them with "advice" from advisers in the first place. Would be better, if the advice were helpful and clear. Then students can be responsible for making whatever choice they make, and you no longer have a problem to try to solve.
The same argument from tradition could be made for books. If the lecturer is no longer going to read the book to the students, as they once did, then the university should pay for the books.
would check this… IE still is the market leader and a huge portion
of people will miss your excellent writing due to this problem.
how to get him to propose