Academic journal article Communications of the IIMA

Cloud-Based Course Development: Teaching with a "Safety" Net

Academic journal article Communications of the IIMA

Cloud-Based Course Development: Teaching with a "Safety" Net

Article excerpt


The students in my e-business class never open their textbook. The reason: I have found that the less I use the book, the more they learn--so, in the spring of 2012, we gave up the academic "safety net" for both the teacher and the students and did not use a textbook.

I did not set out to banish the book from my classroom. During my first year of teaching e-business, a period in which I was new to the subject matter and struggling to stay ahead of the students, I based much of my course content primarily on the organization of the textbook. In my middle years, after acquiring subject-matter expertise through industry projects and considering my exposure to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), I continued to use a text but found that I assigned little reading from it. In class, I focused more on using active learning activities rather than lecture on the content of the text. More recently, I scrapped the use of the text altogether and really have not missed using one. I realized the deficiencies common to most textbooks and substituted active-learning in-class and cloud-based out-of-class curriculum activities for topics that my students needed help in mastering. As I added more predominantly cloud-based activities and resources, I found that students learned far more in terms of their ability to do e-commerce when I did not assign the book.


Most of us assign textbooks for what we always assumed were good pedagogical reasons: We wanted students to be able to fill in gaps we do not get to in class, to engage in fact-checking, to read other perspectives, to have easy access to data, to find a framework for some of our more esoteric departures, and to provide students with a specialized reference guide rather than having them reach for a general topics encyclopedia. Great ideas--except that given our students exposure to technology, most of them do not use books for those purposes anymore! In fact, recent cross-disciplinary research (Clump, Bauer & Bradley, 2004) has indicated that only a small minority of our students (27.4%) actually read the book before class, and on average only 70 percent of our students (between 60% and 90%) even read the material before a test, with a significant difference existing between courses. Another recent study (Pryor et al., 2009) indicated that close to 99 percent of our students use the internet for research or homework.

While some textbooks are truly excellent, most tend to bore my students and therefore frustrate me. Since textbooks are marketed nationally, most attempt to comply with publisher's standards for both minimal length and universal content, frequently resulting in heavy tomes that cover, at best, all topics superficially. Some textbooks do a fabulous job of making their content relevant, but others insult students' intelligence by oversimplifying and fragmenting the subject matter so much that it becomes virtually incomprehensible. Still others explore only a few topics instead of an ever-evolving standard content set. Many texts promulgate misconceptions or even outright errors. They present ideas didactically as discrete facts to be accepted and memorized, rather than as clues of principles to be discovered and explored. In addition, consistent with Steven Colbert's concept of "truthiness" (Colbert & Hoskinson, 2005), our students believe that if it is in the text, then it must be true.

Many of today's professors feel that most of today's texts are simply too expensive, usually too long, and frequently too dense to be of much practical use. I freely admit that it was the first of these reasons that first led me to eschew a text in my course. I decided to stop using a text when the $75 paperback I was using shot up to closer to $200 and I simply could not justify the price, given how little I teach from a text. I have found that little generates more student complaints than professors requiring books from which reading assignments are not required. …

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