Leaving the Textbook Behind

by Emily S. Logan, Assistant Professor, Kirkwood Community College

Emily 2017 copy

With the support of the Kirkwood OER team, I am now utilizing open resources for two courses, Substance Abuse and Treatment and Loss, Trauma and Resilience.  Both are Human Services (HSV) courses and offered in the Kirkwood ATAW (online) format.  I began considering this shift about a year ago and intend to continue the use of open educational resources for both courses.  As I reflect on my experience, some themes emerge.


Perhaps to you can relate to the struggle in finding the “right” textbook for your course.  My office bookshelf is littered with my attempts. The ongoing search for a better book left me frustrated.  The more frequently I taught the courses, the more I brought in “supplemental” readings, outside of the required textbook.  From these experiences, I wondered if relying solely on open educational resources, as well as other non-copyrighted sources, would be a better alternative.


Research, theory, policy, and practice move quickly in human services, so textbooks too become quickly outdated. I found myself editing course readings semester to semester due to new developments in the field, often inspired by a conference I attended or collaboration with community providers.  As an applied program, having current, up-to-date information for students is critical.


Integrating new resources empowers my creativity as an instructor. Familiar course material becomes new.  Furthermore, the flexibility of online instruction and utilization of electronic resources such as podcasts, websites, and video creates a dynamic learning atmosphere.


Through the use of open resources, I ask students to make connections between research, theory, policy, and practice.  Weekly modules typically contain content and applications.  Content knowledge is evaluated by quizzes, and applications are evaluated through discussions.


Students overwhelmingly like the videos I create to introduce the week’s material.  Even if the video is just a few minutes long, it seems to help students understand how the week’s assigned content is tied together.  Furthermore, I can explain the websites I’ve chosen and help students see what parts of the website are most critical.  For example, when assigning Understanding Drug Use and Addiction (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction), I use Zoom technology to share my screen and highlight key points or links on the webpage.


Without a textbook, we lose many of the convenient publisher resources including presentations, notes, and test banks.  This can increase preparation time for faculty, so commitment to the process is critical.

Concluding thoughts….

If you’re curious about leaving the textbook behind, contact me anytime.  I’m happy to talk more about my decision, process, and lessons learned along the way.