Q&A: Do I Need to Purchase Textbooks for My Online Class?

Answer: Online classes require regular reading assignments. How students access the material depends on the school and/or class. Here are some options for online courses.

Purchasing textbooks: Some courses may require students to purchase a book (or books) from the college/university bookstore or on their own. Some courses may require one book, others may require multiple books. To save money, students should check their local library for the textbook(s). Some libraries may allow you to check out the same book multiple times, which means you can keep the book for the duration of your class. Another suggestion is looking online for used textbooks that could cost less than new ones. Put the words "used textbooks" in your Internet browser when you do this search. The advantage of purchasing or borrowing a textbook is that you have it to refer to at any time. You can make notes or highlights (unless it is borrowed) and refer back to it.

E-books: Some colleges/universities may find it easier for online students to access their books online, as well. These books are often referred to as e-books. E-books are downloaded from your course or from the school's library. In some cases, e-books are a part of the course and therefore, there's no additional charge. However, students may be charged for e-books, just like a hard-copy textbooks. Usually, e-books are large files, and they can be downloaded and saved.

The advantage of an e-book is that it can be accessed at any time (if saved) and/or from any Internet source. This means if you have a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device, your textbook is at your fingertips.

Online Resources: Most online classes also include online resources. Some of your course readings may include online articles and/or other online academic resources. If so, links to these resources should be located in the digital classroom. An advantage to online articles/resources is that it's usually the most recent version. Online information is constantly updated, so it's fairly easy to research and compare recent findings/data, etc.

When students register for classes, they should know (at that time) how to access the reading materials. Hopefully, you have plenty of time to order a book, if need be. If you've ordered your book late and it's not going to be delivered before the class starts, notify your instructor. If your course has an e-book, make sure to download it when you receive access to the course. This way, you are ready to start on the first day.

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!