Trying to Make Sure Your Students Are On the Same Page
In recent years I’ve been hearing more and more frequently from academics across North America that they are having difficulty getting their students to work from the assigned texts. Even if a particular edition of Frankenstein or Utilitarianism is specified as required, many report that their students will often try to get by with a different edition or with an online version of uncertain provenance. Understandably enough, many academics are now under the impression that, whatever they may do or say in this regard, a good many of their students will simply not purchase required texts.
I have no doubt that’s true of some students everywhere, but I would strongly urge you not to take their behavior as any indication that what you do or say makes no difference to the majority of students. Indeed, the preliminary results of a 2018 survey we’ve been conducting suggest that what you tell your students about the texts you would like to use may make a greater difference than ever before.
This is the third time in the past thirteen years that we have conducted a wide-ranging survey of student attitudes about books, websites, and learning materials of all sorts. I should caution that the 2018 results are still preliminary (based on a relatively small number of classes).* But the responses thus far strongly suggest that one trend in our 2005 and 2012 surveys is even more pronounced today. In each of those years and in 2018 we have asked students this question:
If a book is designated as a required text, to what extent will your decision as to whether you will actually purchase a copy (in whatever form) depend on whether or not your professor strongly emphasizes the importance of having the book?
In both 2005 and 2012, 55% of students answered that it “greatly influences” their decision if the professor has strongly emphasized the importance of having the book, and a further 32% (in 2005) and 29% (in 2012) reported that it “somewhat influences” their decision. Only 8% and 9% respectively reported that, however strongly the professor puts it, that recommendation does not at all influence their decision. In 2018 thus far, a full 73% of surveyed students report that their professor’s recommendation “greatly influences” their decision, with a further 24% reporting that the professor’s recommendation “somewhat influences” their decision.
Clearly, then, it really does make a difference if you take a minute or two during the first week of classes to emphasize with your students how important it is for them all to be able to be on the same page (whether it’s the same page of a newly purchased book, a used copy of the same edition, or a PDF of the same edition**). One might wish for a world in which it were enough to simply list texts as required reading and know that all students would, through one means or another, obtain copies. If that world ever did exist, it seems unlikely to return. But it seems clear as well that with a few words during the first week of classes you really can make a difference! All the best,
CEO and Company Founder
*This time we have the survey fully automated through Surveymonkey; if you might be interested in giving your students the opportunity to share their thoughts on these matters through completing such a survey, please be in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or with Alexandria Stuart (email@example.com) and we can provide you with everything you need. We can offer a small “thank you” to participating students as well.
** We at Broadview are of course not a disinterested party here; naturally we’re very pleased if students choose to purchase new copies or e-books from the Broadview website. But we absolutely appreciate that many students prefer to purchase used copies or to rent copies, and that those choices enable them to ‘be on the same page’ just as well.