Tag Archives: textbook

CollegeQandA asks: When to buy books?

When to buy books?

In particular, when should you purchase a textbook for a course?  We’ve discussed textbooks before (and why to buy them) and what they’re useful for.  This discussion is a challenging one because textbooks are very expensive, but aren’t always necessary for every course just because they are recommended.

Books on a shelf

Start with the syllabus

The syllabus is one of the main resources which will tell you how important the textbook is.  Can you use the textbook in exams?  Do you have to have it to access the assignment or practice problems?  Is there some online resource that you get access to and is needed for the course by buying the textbook?  These are the first questions you need to ask.

How is the textbook used in the course?

That’s the key question, and if the syllabus doesn’t tell you and the courses online portal has no information, then you need to email the professor and ask what the textbook is used for in the course.  Another information source for this question is talking to previous students who took the course with the same instructor(though beware that they might mislead you based on wanting to sell you their used textbook).

Lots of options

Now that you know how the book is used, you can determine in which format to obtain the book.  There are many possibilities in the modern day to obtain a textbook including:

  • The library copy (least expensive)
  • Book rental companies
  • Used older editions of the book
  • Used copies
  • Online copies
  • New (most expensive)

Depending on how the book is used in the class will help you decide which format to acquire the textbook.

One other consideration

The last thing about a textbook, is that there are a few textbooks that not only are used for courses, but are also used by practicing professionals.  If the course is in a field where you might work in someday, then you should check to see if this particular textbook is the one that is used throughout a career.  If it is, then it’s a good buy.

Credits: Photo title: Books (74/365) by: John Liu


CollegeQandA asks: What are the first few things I should do to prepare for my classes?

What should I do to prepare for my classes?

I’ll answer this question by, first, telling you what I do prepare to teach a class in, roughly, sequential order:

  1. [months before] I think about what I want to do with this course, what previously went bad, what was good, and what ideas I want to try.
  2. [months before] I come up with what are the learning objectives of this course.
  3. [weeks to months before] I layout the calendar for the course deciding when things will happen and what order we will try to progress at to achieve the objectives.
  4. [weeks to months before] I create the syllabus with these dates and objectives in mind including how to assess students on satisfying the objectives.
  5. [weeks to months before] I create the online presence that we will use to communicate in electronic form.
  6. [weeks to months before] I prepare lectures, quizzes, exams, projects, labs into some depth of the course, though this can vary depending on a number of factors.
  7. [weeks before] I check into the lab and classroom and log into the computer to check out the technology for the classroom.  Where are the lights?  What type of writing board do I have?
  8. [weeks before] I start practicing names for everyone in the class who has a photo.
  9. [week before] I run though the materials I have prepared to check if things look good.
  10. [day before] I review my class plan.
  11. [hour before] I review the plan and check all documents.
  12. [15 minutes before] I warmup my voice, head to the classroom, and prepare the room.
  13. [10 minutes before] In the classroom, I play or show some unrelated/related articles/videos/etc. to start a discussion as people walk into the classroom.
  14. Showtime !!!

In summary, I’m the so called expert and I’ve already spent a number of hours preparing for a class before you the learner walk into the classroom.

Based on that what should I do?

Here’s a few suggestions that you can do to prepare for my classes and others:

  1. Have your notebook (separate one per class), recording devices, and supplies organized and ready.
  2. Print out the syllabus and have it pasted/attached to your notebook.
  3. Read that syllabus ahead of time and scan through any online materials that are available.
  4. Learn a little bit about the topic of the class.  A quick search on Wikipedia should give you some basic ideas related to the course.
  5. Decide what you find interesting or curious about this topic to help motivate yourself.  Even if the topic doesn’t relate to what you really like, frame some questions back to your passions such as, “How will topic X relate back and help me with my interest Y”.
  6. Find the classroom the day before classes start so you aren’t one of the many who come in late because they can’t find their classroom.
  7. See if there is anything online about the lecture that you can read ahead of time to provide you with a framework of what will be done in that class.
  8. Arrive early to class, if you can.
  9. Pick a seat in the front or in the center to sit (the closer to the front the better).  Oddly enough, you may sit in this spot for the rest of the semester.
  10. Introduce yourself to people around your seat and ask for contact information before the class starts.
  11. Prepare yourself to be an active listener as opposed to a passive listener.  This might require thinking about your earlier questions or new ones about the topic that you might be interested in.
  12. Take a deep breath and relax…this is about learning and should be fun.