Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Another term begins

and more observations …

The first week of this fall term has been more hectic than most first weeks. It seems there have always been problems with the campus bookstore and the availability of textbooks, but this term it’s been worse. The bookstore just didn’t order near enough copies of the grammar text for my Essay Writing classes, and it fell short as well in the text for the Practical Writing class.

Usually, some sort of alternative plan is available – the tutoring centers are supposed to have copies of the textbooks for all of the department’s classes, so students can go to the tutoring center and use the books there. But on at least one campus, the tutoring center didn’t have the books for either the Essay Writing or the Practical Writing. It used to be that the campus libraries kept copies of textbooks at the reserve desk. But those books kept getting stolen, so the libraries gave up on that. I have recommended that students go to online retailers to get the books, but that means the students don’t get the books right away. In addition, even if the books are immediately available in the bookstore, I always have some students who can’t buy the books until their financial aid comes in.

So I might just delay assignments and not assign anything having to do with the book until the students have time to get it. But we have a heck of a lot of material to cover over the term, so we can’t afford a delay.

Ah, some students have the book. Thus, if students who don’t have the book can work together with students who do have it, that solves the problem. Not only that, my entire curriculum is centered on cooperative learning, with students working together – in my class, helping each other out is not cheating, it’s collaboration.

But even that required some work on my part. Normally, I create class lists during the second week of class, and I take a draft of the lists to the classes for editing for a week before I print out the final version. But this time, it was important for students to get the lists as soon as possible. I made draft lists today and got those drafts up on the class homepages, and then I spent most of the rest of the day creating the class email lists so those students who have books can broadcast their availability to the rest of the class. Over an extremely slow dial-up connection, with an ancient and balky computer, this took several hours.

Still, I think it was worth it. And I did have a couple of moments that made me smile, such as the student who had been checking the bookstore and found that 20 new copies of the textbook had come in this afternoon – within minutes, she was online, alerting the rest of the class.

It’s not just that student, but email from many others that has me believing this is going to be a really great term – there’s so much enthusiasm and energy.

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Blogger Lydia Manx said...

Having worked in a college bookstore for five years I can share what used to happen a half dozen years ago (before online ordering became so important and changed the business). We'd put in the order for 80 kids for a class and the teacher would neglect to tell us only 20 folks signed up. From there it got costly to ship back and such. I cant see it getting any better with all the places online ordering undercutting the college stores.

Not pretty for teachers. I have heard more are going to LuLu route and letting students just directly order. Depends on college.

Sun Sep 07, 07:07:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Something Gerald related to us his first week at college -- one of his instructors assumed the majority of his students would be getting course materials (this is an architecture class, so materials included drafting equipment in addition to textbooks) someplace other than the campus bookstore, so he ordered only a token amount. Gerald was left scrambling to find the materials somewhere in town, without a vehicle to drive to where the materials were available.

At least at the community college where I teach, the vast majority of students do get their books from the campus bookstore -- and it's not necessarily the bookstore staff's fault when they fall short. The textbook companies routinely send fewer books than the bookstore orders.

I wonder if this feeds a vicious circle -- campus bookstores expect more students to order books online, so fewer books are available in the physical store, so more students are forced to order books online.

Mon Sep 08, 01:45:00 AM MDT  

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