Editorial: Why are textbooks still mandatory?
Universities should offer alternative, free methods of enhancing course content.
Many universities—including UTM—mandate textbooks and access codes as a part of courses. Students, who already struggle with living costs, tuition, parking, meal plans, and personal expenses can spend up to $2000 on textbooks and additional school supplies per year. This raises the question of why textbooks and access codes are a mandatory part of certain courses, to begin with, and why they are sold at excessively high prices.
Textbooks should enhance course content and support learning, not replace it. As students, we pay for a course so that the instructor teaches content to the best of their ability. A textbook should support this journey and elaborate on concepts, but not replace the role of an instructor, as it does in several courses. Any mandatory notes and figures should be freely available for students to access throughout the course.
Quizzes and other methods of enhancing learning should be available on a freely accessible platform—such as Quercus—instead of with the purchase of an access code. There is not a single reason to not do this; it is simply a matter of choice on the part of an instructor. At the very least, access codes should be optional, and students should have the opportunity to earn participation marks another way.
As students and staff alike navigate online learning through the pandemic, we have proved that we can rapidly and successfully shift around a system and adapt it to our needs. Textbooks and supplemental materials have been a part of our education system for years, but that isn’t a reason to never change. Textbooks and access codes have their own role in learning, providing supplemental learning, but it should not be an irreplaceable one, nor one that further burdens students financially.