Coursebook 3.0?

There’s been a lot of chat recently on coursebooks both positive and negative.  Also a lot of people have mentioned alternatives to current coursebook models, especially Jason Renshaw at his englishraven blog (a great blog and possibly the most energetic poster in efl/esl!!).  Jason suggested inserts to coursebooks, sort of blank pages for students to write in and make notes etc.  he has also talked about handing out blank notebooks and having students ‘write’ their own coursebooks as the lessons progress.

My idea is a little different and is almost certainly not original (if you know anyone who has written about this or done it then let me know).

Basically a publisher acts as a repository for coursebook material, anything from short lessons, warmers, exercises up to entire units.  These are submitted by materials writers and teachers and uploaded and edited for format etc.

School or teacher A then logs on and selects the material that they want to have in their school based on their knowledge of local culture, needs, curricula, interests, age etc.  Space could also be made available for blank pages (note-taking), short tests or any other custom inserts.

The selected units are then put together as a coursebook and then either printed and delivered at cost X (options here could include paper quality, b/w or colour, jacket or none etc.) or delivered as a pdf for cost y to be printed at the school.

This way schools/teachers have better control over their coursebook design and content (those that are happy to have taboo subjects can and vice-versa etc.) and can return to alter it as they wish for the cost of replaced units/lessons etc.

Contributors could be paid per selection and print run so the better/more popular your material the better you are paid and you wouldn’t have to produce an entire book to get published.  Publishers could stop having to produce bland one size fits all coursebooks.

It’s just an idea, what do you think?  Anyone doing it/likely to do it or could this be an idea for a grass-roots publishing/print-on-demand company run by teachers?  As always, would love to hear from you…


About andrewpickles

Teacher of English in Germany
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7 Responses to Coursebook 3.0?

  1. Hi Andrew,

    That’s an interesting idea… much more dynamic and adaptable to different realities. How much would it increase the cost of the CB I, wonder? Because at the same time the price would increase for the smaller amount of similar books being printed, we would choose only what we planned on using so it might result in thinner books.

    Think it would ever happen? 🙂

  2. sabridv says:

    Loved the idea! Cecilia, I don’t think that thinner books are a problem. We would be avoiding another problem we sometimes have: doing some units because we have to finish the book, since parents have spent money on buying it. Don’t you think?

  3. sabridv says:

    Loved the idea! Cecilia, I don’t think that thinner books are a problem. We would be avoiding another problem we sometimes have: doing some units because we have to finish the book, since parents have spent money on buying it. Don’t you think?

  4. David says:


    Seems logical and doable but I don’t think it will ever happen on the scale you imagine UNLESS it is done cooperatively and by practicing teachers.


    Well, a lot of reasons but first and foremost, publishers want control and POD (publish on demand) really decreases their bottom line. They don’t sell thousands of textbooks that don’t get used or are underused. Other reasons too but basically there is no incentive for their bottom line and that’s why publishers though not evil – are not a part of “education” but basically a business that feeds off of education .

    It is also hard cooperatively. I’ve been beating the drum constantly over the last 5 years – getting teachers to share. It isn’t easy. There is still prevalent a “proprietary” and “ownership” mindset. Mine, mine, mine. I’ve got more and more teachers sharing but it is far from what I’ve envisioned. I guess these paradigm shifts take time and it takes time for people to see materials and ideas as things that aren’t owned and “miraculous/unique”.

    My own recommendation is for teachers/institutions to do it themselves. I’ll have a textbook out on which will be POD. You can download and change/amend as you wish. Using a ShareAlike license so that it can be copied as much as needed and shared to all. You might think that money can’t be made this way – I really think it can be profitable and you can also give teachers more control of the content this way by being able to modify the original .

    But good thoughts and look forward to what others think. Let’s keep the Open Educational Resource movement moving!


  5. Rafhael says:

    It’s a great idea! In my opinion, I think this idea could have a better effect, if these coursebooks were strategically designed based on the planning of each school. Because if all the teachers think of trying to create this ‘book-parting’ it would be a bit of a mess.

    In short, the teachers who are going to write each unit of this kind of coursebook, should take into account the method which the school demands and how these books will be applied in class.

    Congrats Andrew, this idea can better the students’ understanding and learning of the English language.

  6. homeschool10x says:

    It seems to me that teachers can compile their own course from free materials on the web. Between the language videos on youtube, the great ESL Learning games on some websites, and all the other resources like reading materials and dictionaries, it can be done.

    For the rest of the teachers, they’ll keep using textbooks since they prefer to focus on working with students following a recipe for materials. I imagine that the textbooks will get cheaper as ebooks become the norm and as adoption moves from sales-person driven process to one of simpler online shopping

  7. Richard says:

    Good ideas. I remember a discussion with colleagues years ago suggesting that the online pick and choose course book would be the way forward, with institutions paying for access. However, the idea of a collaborative effort to bring together ideas is excellent though as David says, it’s not easy. The ideas of a Creative Commons or ShareAlike license, or whatever covers some issues, but I think there could be other problems with the reproduction of ideas from published materials.

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