Do I Really Have to Buy the Book?

Today marked my return to school after a two week break. Today also marked the first day I have felt halfway normal since New Years Eve. I managed to get up, shower, go to work, take the dog to the vet and (gasp) go workout. Watch out guys, I’m back.

But I digress.

I returned to my office to find my plant badly in need of water and also a boat load of emails. I don’t check email over break. I put up my out of office message on the day grades are due and I’m out. The emails were fairly mundane. There were several notifying me of various technical updates that had occurred over break, some messages about the Spring 2013 academic calendar that has apparently changed three times in 24 hours, and a lot of spam. Among these unassuming messages, were three emails from students. All of these emails came from students in the same class, English Composition online, and they all asked essentially the same question: Do I have to buy the book for this course?

Now, I understand textbooks are exorbitantly expensive. I don’t like it and I agree with students when they complain about how half of their financial aid goes towards said textbooks. That being said, this is an introductory writing course and its online. There are no face to face lectures, question/answer sessions or conferences. Online students certainly are welcome to come in and chat with me, but let’s face it, they don’t. Because there is no face to face contact, the textbook is even more important (in my opinion) in an online class than it would be in a traditional course.

The short answer? Yes, you need to buy the book.

My favorite one of these emails was from a young man who has apparently already completed English Composition one time but he received a B in the course, and he “really needs an A to get into his physical therapy program,” so he already went through the course without the textbook, but feels the need to “double check with me” about doing so again. I was tempted to reply with, “Well, Student X, perhaps if you buy the book this time it will give you that extra edge to get you that much needed A.” However, I showed restraint and simply gave him the only answer I can really give to an adult college student: “It is your choice.”

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