Landing : Athabascau University

Professor forces students to buy his own $200 textbook

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By Jon Dron 19 September 2014 @ 11:37am Comments (2)

This article is actually purportedly about the very unsurprising discovery that students who can't afford textbooks are downloading them illegally, even for ethics classes. Shocking! Not. However, the thing that really shocks me about this article is the example given of the professor demanding that his students purchase his own $200 etextbook. Piracy seems a pretty minor crime compared with this apparently outrageous, blatant, extortionate abuse of power. 



  • Mary Pringle September 19, 2014 - 11:46am

    I have to admit that I like Coursera, and for the course I'm currently in the professor gives us the option of purchasing a PDF file of his book for $4.99. I can live with that. Of course, if 300,000 students buy the book at $4.99, he will be a rich man.

  • Jon Dron September 19, 2014 - 12:21pm

    There's money in them thar MOOCs!

    Food for thought though. This doesn't seem at all unethical to me because participation in the course is entirely voluntary and, even if you do choose to participate, it is up to you whether you take up the offer to buy the book or not. Moreover, your future career probably doesn't depend on passing it. It's also an acceptable price, even though it would be better if it were free. One of the real big benefits of MOOCs, perhaps their defining characteristic, is that people do them because they want to learn, not because they want credentials. Dropping out is at least as easy as dropping in, which means learners are in control, not teachers. The problem with doing this in a paid-for university course is that, in all likelihood, you have a captive audience, that needs your course for more than just the knowledge it provides, that has already invested substantially in it and its prerequisites, that you will assess, providing credentials that really matter. Moreover, you've also got a wealth of hierarchies, structures, rules and norms on your side that place you in a distinctively unequal relationship that goes far beyond simply being the one that knows something and that knows how to teach it. It's a very different power relationship. MOOCs from Coursera look like university courses and talk like university courses but, as I've mentioned once or twice before, they're not the same animal at all.