Textbook heroes

Trevor Stone

Mr. Trevor Stone
School of Vocational Engineering, Science and Health
trevor.stone@rmit.edu.au
Course: COSC2511
Introduction to Programming
Saved students: $10,652 in 2019
By prescribing an OER Textbook: Think Java: How to think like a Computer Scientist
(Student savings based on this commercial work: Java How to Program)

 

Comments from Mr. Trevor Stone:

What is the main challenge faced by your students?

IT Students are traditionally “book shy” and kinaesthetic – if it hasn’t got lights and buttons on it, they don’t want to know!

How do they learn and what do they find difficult?

Traditionally “hands on” and will look up specific questions. This is all the reading some IT students want or need. Some others, however, were looking for a good text to support the theory.

What change have you made to respond to this challenge?

Still “hands on” – but this book is a great balance – great theory but very readable with follow up exercises.

What has the impact of the change been (for students and you/the teaching team)?

Very easy both to teach and learn from. Both teachers and students very happy!

What next?

Will look for this series for my other subjects!!

 

Julian Lee

Julian Lee, by Romy Martini.

Dr Julian CH Lee
School of Global, Urban and Social Studies
julian.lee@rmit.edu.au
Course: SOUC1011
Global Processes
Saved students: $4,225 in 2019
By prescribing an OER Textbook: Monsters of Modernity: Global icons for our critical conditions.
(Student savings based on this commercial work: Globalization East and West)

 

 

Comments from Dr Julian CH Lee:

What is the main challenge faced by your students? How do they learn and what do they find difficult?

Global Processes is about globalisation, and many concepts about globalisation are abstract and therefore sometimes difficult to grasp. But even commonplace concepts such as neoliberalism have proven difficult to teach, because neoliberal thinking is part and parcel of life today, and it is impossible for people to imagine the world differently. Finding ways to discuss that which is abstract or ubiquitous has sometimes been a challenge.

What change have you made to respond to this challenge?

In some of the weeks of our course, we used Monsters of Modernity. This book of ours was our attempt to enable students to grasp concepts and ideas that were challenging in diverse ways by using familiar monsters as vehicles and symbols of wider more general phenomena. So, with respect to neoliberalism, Pokémon (which are ‘pocket monsters’) embody the highly acquisitive and individualistic nature of contemporary society. We spent time in class talking about Pokémon and Pokémon Go, which was cool fun.

What has the impact of the change been (for students and you/the teaching team)?

Historically, the week on neoliberalism was the hardest to teach (although I’m sure many would be surprised to hear this). This year, we all felt that the students ‘got it’ much more easily.

Another unexpected impact in using an open access text is that, in addition to the obvious and much appreciated financial ease it confers on students, it also frees course coordinators from the obligation of getting the most value out of a text. I could, if I choose, not use all the book without feeling that the unused chapters have been a waste of money for students.

What next?

I’d like to become an open access ninja and really get to understand the whole scene better, as well as spread the word amongst colleagues. It would also be important to ensure that we give the same or more esteem to colleagues who publish with open access publishers because the obligation to chase prestige could cause many to choose publishers with renown despite the impact on readers, including students and those from places where the cost of an academic book is not just expensive, but prohibitive, given their purchasing power parity.

James Harland

Associate Professor James HarlandJames Harland
School of Science
james.harland@rmit.edu.au
Course: COSC2627
Discrete Structures in Computing
Saved students: $34,862 in 2018
Saved students: $34,092 in Semester 1 2019
By prescribing an OER Textbook: The Book of Proof

 

Comments from Assoc. Professor James Harland:

What is the main challenge faced by your students? How do they learn and what do they find difficult?

Discrete Structures in Computing is a highly conceptual course, which introduces students to several mathematical concepts which are typically new to them (including formal proofs, proofs by contradiction, proofs by induction, predicates, relations, graphs, trees) as well as the mathematical language and symbols in which these concepts are expressed. This means that a comprehensive and detailed textbook is a must.

What change have you made to respond to this challenge?

Course notes and supplementary material such as YouTube videos are all well and good, but there is no substitute in this area for a well-written textbook. It is therefore remarkable and welcome that there is a very good online textbook (The Book of Proof) which is freely available to students, and is the textbook for this course.

What has the impact of the change been (for students and you/the teaching team)?

This has meant students have easy access to the textbook, rather than having to pay a substantial amount of money. It has also allowed the book to be subdivided and linked in as appropriate in the Canvas shell. Many more students end up using the book this way than for a traditional expensive paper-based book.

What next?

Ideally, one would be able to have a curated list of similar books and related materials, which would allow a number of different perspectives on the same material. This needs to be carefully curated in order to provide a consistent view of the material to students, which would mean that consistent but different perspectives can be provided, thus aiding students’ learning.

Having a good textbook that is available online to students is vital in a course where precise use of symbols and definition is fundamental to successful completion.

Using a freely available text like this means that all students are able to access such material easily. I particularly like being able to point to specific parts of the book, and re-organise the topic order to suit our students. This also means it is easier to put together a comprehensive set of course materials in Canvas.