Don’t want to deal with spending enormous amounts of money on textbooks? You should probably head to the University of Maryland University College (UMUC). As of fall 2015, they no longer expect any undergraduate to spend money on textbooks. By the next fall, the same will be true for graduate students. All together, the savings for the 84,000 student would be more than $10 million per year. But that’s not the only upside – the students’ learning will improve as well. Figuring out how to develop a curriculum was hard though, as there was no prior model for the university to follow. They had to create a process on their own.
They first started with revising the programs to be more “outcome-based”. Other approaches were used as well, but were all met with challenges. Needless to say, the process to switch to a non-textbook campus was harder than expected.
The next part of the process was the “discovery” phase. During this phase, librarians helped identify materials that could be possibly used for the each learning objective. After gathering materials, an expert on the subject would work with the material and make appropriate decisions for the course.
Of course, there would be times when the available resources did not completely cover the learning objects of the given course. When this happened, UMUC turned to different resources. One was that the university used a proprietary database that the library subscribes to. In other cases, repurposed material was used. At other times, there was no choice but to license content, like a novel, for certain classes.
Once the content was collected, it was put through an approval process that addressed copyright and accessibility issues. In the simplest case, the librarians would establish whether the material could be downloaded and used in the course. The last phase of this process was to “package” the content so that it would be a smooth learning experience for the students. While textbooks do a great job of providing just the right amount of information for each lesson or unit, that isn’t the case for resources coming form multiple places. In the end, the fix was placing all the information in a database for a week-to-week lesson plan.
The greatest reward of the switch was that the student’s learning improved. As the courses were taught with the new resources, feedback came in, and the content would be changed. And when new material came in for a course, they could be changed quickly and could be incorporated into the next lesson of a class.
The rewards of switching to this “no-textbook-on-campus” way of teaching was that the students were able to link with the content more and be in a more dynamic learning environment. Even if this way of education requires more work, it opens up new opportunities and helps students achieve more in their studies.
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