To outsiders, the phrase custom course pack might sound as dull as a 200-page tax form. Teachers have been copying their favorite stories, chapters, graphics and handouts in a variety of ways for centuries. What makes designing course packs with eText Builder different? Let this long-time teacher tell you.
Assembling your own packets and booklets for students is dull, frustrating, hair-splitting labor. It demands hours of standing over copy machines, collating, checking alignment, checking on copyright. It involves stapling, re-stapling, waiting, hauling and worrying — will the students even bother to read this? Is the print too small? How do I get all of this onto one page? Is there a page missing? What’s that smear? Is that a wrinkle?
If you’re “simply” making copies for the library to upload to the LMS, assembling material involves less copy machine labor, but issues abound. First, there’s the need to rifle through books for just the right material. Then, you must persuade your students to perform a near unheard-of task: print a copy of the uploaded article, story or handout for class. This inevitably results in some failing to arrive with the required text in hand, which results in an imbalanced discussion. Not all teachers require students to print, but I’ve found that asking them to mark a text — either in print or digitally — is the best way to ensure they complete reading.
For me, assembling materials was often a last-minute, acrobatic headache. I devoted my prep hours to assessment and course design — constructing student assignments, writing feedback, reading and making notes for upcoming classes. Oh, yeah — and conferencing with students. And, in K–12, like other teachers, I also coordinated a variety of administrative tasks and extracurricular activities. I’ve never met an educator anywhere who didn’t have too much on his or her plate. Collating can fall on the back-burner.
Then one day you arrive in class fresh from a trip to the copy machine — papers flying from a stack in your arms — only to find that page 14 is missing or page 13 is where page 23 should be — and disaster follows. The class grumbles. A righteous shriek goes up: How are we supposed to read this! All that careful planning falls apart. Typically, it happens more than once.
Enter the custom course pack. A feature like MBS Direct’s eText Builder offers all the advantages of assembling your own materials for a class without disadvantages. That’s why faculty will swoon.
- Complement, supplement or complete — Although I selected novels and anthologies for my literature and writing classes, I never taught a course in which the textbooks supplied all the documentation I needed. In fact, the longer you teach, the more impossible this becomes. Anthology and textbook editors can’t adapt each work to the personal approach of each teacher and teachers who don’t supplement end up with a stilted pedagogy. Over time, most teachers amass a body of supplementary materials for different courses. These are drawn from years of classroom experience, based on what “works” for students facing particular challenge. Some find no need for anthologies over time. This feature allows you to assemble and “publish” all of the materials you know will excite discussion and increase student success based on years of hard-earned experience.
- Student cost savings — Anything that minimizes or simplifies the cost to students brings relief to faculty. It not only helps the students, it increases the likelihood they will have the course materials in hand on the first day of class. That, in turn, increases the likelihood they will succeed. With eText Buider, you can watch the price change as you add material to your course pack. That means you can decide whether including a text is truly worthwhile as you work.
- Print or digital — The simple fact that these materials can be easily printed and bound — or bundled as a digital offering — liberates faculty from hours of labor. It also opens up possibilities. Let’s face it: Sometimes we limit ourselves to materials we have on-hand because they’re easier to use. eText Builder has over 8 million articles and book chapters available. Plus, you can of course add your own materials: lecture notes, syllabi, handouts. You can even link to video in an eBook or include a QR code in printed copies.
- No copyright concerns — Teachers who violate copyright can lose their job — whether the violation is intentional or not. MBS Direct works with partners to ensure all titles in the database are cleared for usage. Faculty can rest easy knowing everything they select is already approved for the classroom.
- Help on-call — Faculty sometimes have peculiar requests, especially as they adjust to a new technology. Having someone available to coach them through the process — and help them find answers to specific questions — is a must. MBS Direct assigns an account manager to each school to answer faculty questions about eText Builder and other services. No one needs to face another copy machine disaster again.