Having difficulty getting your students to read the textbook? Welcome to the club! Sometimes as professors, we ask questions from the assigned reading only to be greeted with blank stares around the classroom. It is common knowledge that college students may not be reading their assigned materials or are only briefly skimming through the chapters. When this happens, the students’ opportunity for learning and development is severely hindered.
CANVAS TO THE RESCUE
So, how do we encourage students to read their textbooks? Well, the good news is that Canvas can help. My favorite method of getting students to read the textbook is to use directed reading questions. The majority of the questions are of the multiple-choice type, though I do sprinkle in a number of true-false ones as well. I include questions on every chapter or assigned chapters of the textbook and compiled them into a study guide. Consequently, the study guide is meant to be a companion to the textbook and is available for download on my Canvas course page.
Whenever students read a chapter of the textbook, they must have the study guide opened to the same chapter. Thus, they read to discover the answers to the questions on the study guide. After finding the answers to the questions, they would log onto the Canvas course page, navigate to the respective chapter and submit their answers. Accordingly, Canvas would grade their answers and give them a score. The scores of all the chapters count toward a percentage of the total grade for the course. I would also make certain that a good number of those questions appear in the exams as well.
WHERE DO I FIND THE QUESTIONS?
Textbook publishers often put together resources that include an instructor manual, presentation slides, and questions (with answers) for every chapter of the textbook. You may use the publisher questions, make up your questions, or a combination of both. An important element of pedagogy is that students need to ask questions in their mind as they are reading. Questions give them a purpose for reading and help them stay focused on the reading assignment.
Whether you use the publisher’s questions or you formulate your own, you need to put them in a multiple-choice or true-false format. In other words, you cannot have open-ended questions as Canvas would not know how to grade them. Canvas gives the option of open-ended questions, but they require an additional investment of time for manual grading. In the case of multiple-choice (or true-false) questions, grading becomes automatic, after you have set up the questions, the possible answers, and indicated the correct answer for each question. It does take some take time and effort to set this up but, I assure you it is definitely worth the investment.
This method is not perfect. Students are creative and some are always searching for shortcuts. They may find ways in which to copy the answers from students that had previously taken your course or scour the Internet to find answers to your questions. It should not surprise you that some students often choose not to go through the laborious process of discovering the answers on their own. I often like to remind students that their time at Vanguard is where they build their character and integrity. If they cheat in an assignment, Canvas will still give them a passing grade but they will ultimately reap what they sow (Galatians 6:7)!