By Doug Ward
If you’ve noticed that your students still don’t have required course materials, you have lots of company.
That’s because more students are delaying purchase of course materials, if they buy them at all, and paying more attention to price when making decisions, according to a report by the National Association of College Stores.
That’s not surprising, as students have said for several years that they have been avoiding the purchase of course materials. It is still worth watching the trends, though, because it is difficult for students to succeed if they don’t have the books and other course materials they need for their classes. Students who avoided purchase of books reported lower GPAs, the report said, even though two-thirds of students said that they suffered no consequences.
The report, Student Watch: Attitudes & Behaviors Toward Course Materials, is based on surveys of students at 90 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada in the spring. Among some of the findings that stand out:
- 20 percent of students waited until after the first week of classes to buy course materials, compared with 12 percent in each of the three previous semesters.
- Only 40 percent of students reported that they had all course materials by the first day of class.
- 25 percent of students said they gained access to course material by borrowing, sharing or downloading them (most likely through illicit means). That is up from 15 percent in Spring 2017.
- The amount students spend on required course materials has been on a steady decline over the last decade, falling to $579 in the 2016-17 school year from $701 in 2007-08.
- Freshmen spent an average of $633 during the last academic year, compared with $481 for seniors.
- The average cost of a textbook was $81 during the 2016-17 academic year.
- Students in health professions and business spent the most on course materials, the report said. Those in computer science and math spent the least.
The takeaway from the report is that instructors must pay more attention to the cost of course materials they assign. More and more students simply won’t buy the required materials. I’ve heard many professors say that’s the students’ faults, but the reality is more complex. More than a third of students said instructors never used the required texts they bought, and more than a fourth said the materials were hard to understand or use. Nine percent of students at four-year universities said they had to borrow money to pay for their books, and 18 percent said they had to wait for financial aid before they could afford books.
Seemingly fishing for some good news, the report highlighted a finding that 97 of students bought at least one required text during the spring semester.
Yes, one. If only learning were that simple.
So long, computers?
At least that’s what many faculty members speculated in a survey by the magazine Campus Technology. The magazine asked faculty members what technologies were most likely to disappear in the next decade. Desktop computers and laptops landed at the top of the list, followed by clickers and non-interactive projectors and displays.
Interestingly, the survey didn’t ask people what would replace computers. (Probably smaller computers.)
The survey was too small (232 volunteers nationwide) to provide any real validity, but the responses were interesting nonetheless. For instance, faculty expect virtual and augmented reality to grow in importance, along with mobile devices and apps, and 3D modeling, scanning and printing.
Here’s a conundrum, though: Eighty-one percent of respondents said technology had improved their teaching, and 81 percent said it had improved student learning. When asked to identify the technology they wish they didn’t have to deal with, though, faculty members said learning management systems, mobile devices, printers and computers.
Apparently faculty think technology works well as long as they don’t have to use it.
A thoughtful reflection on concealed carry
“To me, the college classroom is a sacred space—a place to practice dealing with conflict without recourse to violence,” Lisa Moore of the University of Texas, Austin, writes. “My professional judgment as a teacher is that the kind of security we need in the classroom is incompatible with the presence of a loaded firearm.”
Her thoughtful essay on the site of the Association of American Colleges and Universities is well worth reading.
Doug Ward is the associate director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and an associate professor of journalism. You can follow him on Twitter @kuediting.