Why do we still have basic textbooks in higher ed?

"The solution is to put that value in the hands of the practitioners, use digital means to distribute the cost drivers, and provide a level of modularity that a book format cannot do. Full-time faculty in a department or discipline should collectively design a framework or curriculum for a given course. (Again, this is already happening in many places alongside textbooks.) Individual members of a department could then be given responsibility for managing content within a module for the system. Modules are likely to be appropriate over multiple courses and disciplines and should be shareable. A platform like WordPress has templates that would facilitate this process. Now you have a curated framework for the adjuncts and a mechanism for providing content and keeping it refreshed (something textbooks routinely fail at) at zero cost to the student.

The amount of energy and resources spent on textbooks requires that we need to re-evaluate them in the context of the digital age. By pushing them to the background we also have the related benefit of putting content into its proper context for Digital Age students. It allows us to make sure it is the fuel for our students’ learning and not an expensive wet blanket that extinguishes their desire to learn. That will only happen when the content is as dynamic and empowered as their learning is (or should be). Basic textbooks stifle that and are a tremendous financial burden to boot. We can fix that if we take a sober look at their role in the digital age. We owe it to our students to do so."

-Tom Haymes

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