There are many reasons why instructors should go textbook-free and I share some of those reasons in my blog post Why I Made My Composition Classes Textbook-Free Zones. One year later I have also made my professional writing classes textbook-free and I am so happy with my choice. I teach at a regional state university in the heart of Appalachia so keeping things cost effective for my students is at the top of my list, but I also like how well online texts work with my #HyperDoc lessons and assignments. But perhaps the biggest benefit to me is that going textbook-free allows me to curate my students’ texts for theme and deliverable while still allowing room for student choice.
As an introductory writing course, I find the Purdue Online Writing Lab a tremendous resource for format information and general writing advice as well as specific tips for writing tasks. I also rely heavily on Writing Commons to provide both general and specific writing advice for my developing writers. Two sources offer a wide array of mentor texts for my American-Creed themed classes: This I Believe and the Solutions Story Tracker.
As the second course in our dual introductory writing sequence, I continue to use the Purdue Online Writing Lab and Writing Commons but shift my focus to include TED Talks and particularly the TED Radio Hour. Often I use the audio/video files to introduce an expert or topic then shift to an article written by the expert. Previously I used long-form journalism (see Longform and Longreads) to inform and model students’ formal argument writing, but this spring I may continue to use the Solutions Story Tracker. Or maybe I’ll present all three options to my students and let them choose.
We do not have a professional or technical writing program, so this is very much an introductory course at our institution, but I have found that Open Technical Communication and Technical Writing offer most of the foundational readings I need to support my students introduction to professional writing. I also use Purdue Online Writing Lab to guide students through the most appropriate documentation style for their project (which is tied with their professional and/or personal goals). I do supplement with some blog posts, articles, and videos from industry professionals and/or faculty.
Morehead Writing Project Institute
I do actually strongly suggest that participants buy one book: Writing Alone and With Others because it sets up the National Writing Project experience so well including advice and prompts for writers as well as tips and strategies for writing groups. However, the majority of our reading is generated by the participants or mined from the amazing array of teacher blogs available to us. One of my goals is always to help teachers develop their own resources and PLN to support their journey as professionals. As they develop their passion projects they may choose to purchase some books, but my hope is that they will develop relationships with others on the same journey. Engaging with teacher bloggers is a great way to find their people.
The truth is that I have always hated trying to build my course around a specific text and the older I get the less inclined I am to do so. I love that open source texts allow me to provide the support and inspiration that my students may need while allowing us choice so that each project and each semester is full of lovely new adventures. Can your traditional textbook deliver this much value? Pedagogically, using open source texts has been the right choice for my students and I, but I am also happy that my students don’t need to wait for a paycheck or grant in order to buy class materials. What open source texts do you use with your students? Do you have questions about using open source texts in your classroom?