It’s time to dump the set text

The days of picking a textbook, downloading the publisher’s resources and setting end-of-chapter exercises for practice are long gone – and good riddance.

Man lying asleep on opened textbook and homework papers
Photo by Gabby K from Pexels

Matt Miller has been calling for educators to Ditch That Textbook for over ten years, but most academics I speak with tell me that they still use one. In UK institutions, the set text for accounting courses is invariably one of about six similarly structured titles. Many educators say their students don’t particularly like it and, more commonly, they don’t read it.

It may not be true of your students, but in my experience, you can’t even give textbooks away. My institution provides students with a set text for each module free of charge using a digital platform. The data indicates that some don’t read at all, and very few read a lot.

I don’t blame them. Although I really like my book, it’s not something students will likely treasure for years to come.

For teachers, textbooks provide a spine and structure to our courses and resources (of variable and questionable quality). But they’re also a crutch for our teaching and perhaps provide a figleaf of academic respectability. Are these good enough reasons to hang onto them?

I never base my courses on a textbook, because textbooks focus on how academics keep themselves busy rather than on fundamental questions, and they slavishly copy earlier textbooks’ arbitrary ways of organizing the subject matter.

Stephen Pinker, The Language Instinct, Afterword p. 432

The seemingly ever-increasing pressure to provide more accessible, attractive, interactive and challenging learning materials can feel overwhelming, but I believe it also presents an opportunity. I’m making a modest start to build a library of “learning bricks” for accounting courses for schools, colleges, universities and perhaps even wider.

I’m playing around with H5P, a free and open-source HTML5 coding platform. This sounds fancy and complicated, but it’s actually really easy to use, create, share and reuse content. You can embed content within most websites and learning management systems, including Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas and Brightspace. In fact, any LMS that uses Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standards.

Here are a couple of examples

Please let me know if you would like to join the project or find out more.


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