RVC Professor Turns the Page on Traditional Texts

Posted on Feb 17, 2016


RVC Professor Chuck Konkol envisions a world where college students would no longer need to strap on a book bag to go to class. All they would need is their mobile devices.

While it might be optimistic to think textbooks will become obsolete anytime soon, Konkol does see it as highly likely for some courses to no longer require a traditional textbook.

“If I was to give a prediction,” says Konkol, “in the next 10 years there will probably be no textbooks for any technical courses.”

Konkol-teaching-with-iPadKonkol has certainly done his part to make that prediction come true. His Digital Photography (WEB 225) and Programming iOS Apple Mobile Devices (CIS 280) classes have not used a textbook in over a year, and this year he has made that move in his Networking Essentials (PCT 110) and Introduction to Network Security Fundamentals (PCT 130) classes as well.

Instructor created content, as Konkol refers to it, is still a foreign concept to some, but for programming and other technology based courses it has become the new normal over the last two to three years.

Konkol was first inspired by the work of Peter L. Dordal from the Department of Computer Science at Loyola University-Chicago. Konkol began using Dordal’s self-written workbook, An Introduction to Computer Networks, in his PCT 110 class at Rock Valley College. Dordal’s workbook has received kudos from the tech community and students around the world have started using it as a replacement, or at least as a supplement, for the textbook in networking courses.

For his PCT 130 course, Professor Konkol uses his own workbook that he “beefs up” each week and adds online resources to enhance the lessons. He estimates that it only takes him about 4-5 hours of extra work each week to create his own content for PCT 110 and PCT 130.

“If I was to give a prediction,” says Konkol, “in the next 10 years there will probably be no textbooks for any technical courses.”

The results?

It saves each of his students anywhere from $100-$150 in each class or about $300 if they are taking both of his classes. Obviously students in Konkol’s classes have yet to complain.

“Students are usually blown away because they are so used to assuming they will need to buy a textbook,” says Konkol.

But it’s not just a cost-saving favor to students that is driving Konkol.

“The beauty of it is I’m in total control of the content,” says Konkol. “I can update it semester by semester.”

This dynamic control of the content is, well, dynamic. Students can even subscribe through iTunesU or iBooks and the material automatically gets updated for them even after they leave the class. Those students could go back a few years from now to reference the material and they will instantly have access to the most current content rather than a textbook that is, all of a sudden, drastically dated. That’s huge in a technical world where things are changing at a rapid pace.

Konkol realizes that this shift is not going to happen for all courses, but he is an early adopter who hopes he can influence his colleagues teaching technical courses at RVC.

“I keep saying, let’s work to see if we can replace the textbook in one class per year,” says Konkol.

So don’t get rid of those book bags just yet.

Konkol-in-class

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