Some professors require textbooks, while others do not.
As the spring 2021 semester began, students began the search for textbooks. Mechanical engineering sophomore Grace Lunsford spent $800 on textbooks last semester and $500 this semester.
“I do get a lot of use out of my thermodynamics textbook,” Lunsford said. “I have to haul it up the stairs every morning for class.”
Communication disorders sophomores Lunsford and Mary Grace Parks both think that their textbooks for lower level classes end up being a waste of money. They only rely on textbooks if course material is difficult and need a further explanation past their notes.
“Professors, especially for lower level classes, should look into free online resources,” Parks said. “It gives every student the same learning opportunity without a financial barrier.”
Some professors have implemented free online resources, like articles or historical texts, for their students. Geology Professor Suniti Kamara Walimuni Devage teaches GEOL 1003. In the past, he required students to purchase a textbook, but when the pandemic and remote classes began, he looked into other, more accessible options.
“I want to provide resources that anyone can access,” Devage said. “These online resources, I find, offer more viable and visual information to my students.”
Devage is not against textbooks but said these online resources teach students to follow information more independently. He said he wants students to participate in critical thinking rather than learning from a test bank of questions, and online resources have helped him achieve that goal.
Devage said textbooks are vital for upper level classes and the information can get so specific that a textbook will be a necessity.
Mass Communication Professor David Stamps teaches classes on digital branding and social media.
“When I was a student, I remember how difficult it was to find money for textbooks,” Stamps said. “So, when I became a professor, I made a pledge to utilize online resources, but I am in no way against textbook use.”
Stamps said for social media and branding classes, it is difficult to find an up to date textbook. He said the textbooks are produced one to two years before they hit the shelf.
“The increase in textbook prices is a red flag; it is a cash grab,” Stamps said. “They are not as updated as they should be and ultimately it will put students into deeper debt.”
Political Science Professor Jeong Kim said while lecture notes are curated by professors, students need a textbook that offers material that they can evaluate outside of class.
“Some events we discuss in our notes can be worth an hour long lecture,” Kim said. “However, we do not have that much time, so the textbook allows for students to learn and think for themselves.”
For her class, she said the textbook offers more background information that she cannot cover in a 50-minute lecture.
“Textbooks also offer exercise and discussion questions,” Kim said. “This helps students build upon topics and theories discussed in lectures.”