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Towson University

Best Practices for Course Material Selection and Usage

The academic freedom to select textbooks and course materials that the faculty enjoys is accompanied by the responsibility to choose materials that support a student’s learning process by being both course appropriate and affordable. The following are best practices designed to maximize the usage of adopted textbooks and course materials and to support the intent of Maryland College Textbook and Affordability Act of 2009 as well as USM Policy.


Course Material Selection Process:

  • Consider the price of the course materials as one of the criteria during the textbook selection process.

Make it clear to publisher sales representatives that price is an important factor in the decision-making process. Course materials that deliver high quality at a reasonable cost to students should be selected whenever possible. Price and cost information may be requested from the publisher or University Store though both are subject to change.

  • Obtain accurate bibliographic information for all course materials.

This information includes title, author, edition, publisher and most importantly the ISBN (International Standard Book Number), which is the unique identifier of each publication.

  • Use bundling of course materials only when it provides a cost benefit for students.

A “Bundle” is defined as one or more college textbooks or other supplemental material packaged together to be sold as course materials for one price. Bundle only essential material that will actually be used in the course. If one-time-use materials are included in the bundle, consider the impact this may have on the students’ ability to resell the other materials back to the University Store or to other students. Publishers will assign a unique ISBN to a bundle to identify it as a publication different from the single textbook for inventory purposes.

  • Consider using the same edition of a textbook as long as possible.

The frequent change of textbook editions increases the costs of course materials for students, both in terms of the purchase of new textbooks and the decreased value of used books that are sold back to the University Store.

  • When practical, allow multiple editions of a title to be used for a course.

Inform the University Store so that used books are available and those editions can be bought back at the Used Book Buyback for a higher price.

  • Consider a custom course packet for essential material.

If a portion of a larger work is essential to the course, consider placing that portion on reserve in the library or making it available online or as a custom course packet .  All such material must be offered in compliance with copyright regulations. The University Store provides a custom course packet service as a means of making essential information available in a more affordable format.

  • Consider Department-wide adoptions of the same title for all sections of the same course.

Using the same book for all sections of the same course maximizes the students’ opportunity to receive higher prices for their used books thus defraying the high cost of textbooks.

  • Review these Best Practices when selecting course materials for the next semester.

Department Chairpersons are encouraged to remind instructors of the Best Practices for selecting course materials especially the importance of the timely submission of book orders to the University Store.



Course Material Ordering:

  • Submit all orders for textbooks and course materials to the University Store using the online order process. The University Store maintains the database and publishes the online listing of all course material information for the university in compliance with the College Textbook Competition and Affordability Act of 2009.

By law, a complete and accurate list of all required and recommended course materials must be made available online on the University Store’s website  as a result of the textbook order process. Therefore, faculty who use course materials must submit an order to the University Store so that the title information is included in the online listing.

Students also expect the University Store to have all course materials available for purchase. This is especially important for those students who are purchasing their course materials with financial aid and the campus debit OneCard, which are not accepted forms of payment for other stores and online sites.

  • Submit orders (adoptions) for course materials by published deadlines.

These deadlines are established to give adequate time to assess the availability of course materials, especially used books, and to compile the title list for the Used Book Buyback. When the University Store has book orders for specific titles, students are paid a higher price for used copies of those titles to meet the store’s inventory needs. Course material information is also needed by specific deadlines to comply with the USM Policy that requires the University Store to publish Fall Semester course material information online by the preceding May 1 and Spring Semester course material information by the preceding December 1.

  • Order and recommend only the course materials that will be used in the course.

Indicate to the University Store and to students that a text is required only if it will actually be used in the course. Otherwise indicate that the text is recommended. The University Store usually orders fewer copies of recommended course materials because fewer students purchase books that are not required.

  • When selecting a different title than previously used including changing the edition of a textbook, the faculty must acknowledge by law that they have considered several factors including the cost of the books, substantial content changes between editions of the same book and that supplemental material in bundles is intended for use in the course.

Faculty will make these acknowledgements as a step in the process of submitting an online order for textbooks and course materials to the University Store, which has been determined to be the most convenient method of recording this information. However, any questions or concerns regarding faculty compliance with the acknowledgement process will not be administered by the University Store, but will be referred to the Provost’s Office for review.

Changes to Course Material Selections:

  • Instructors are asked to refrain from changing course material selections that are submitted to the University Store except under certain circumstances.

Once accurate course material information for a semester is listed online by the University Store, the course material selections may only be changed if a sufficient supply of a title is unavailable, the instructor is reassigned by the academic department, or the course is cancelled. Requests for changes under any other circumstances must be authorized by the Department Chairperson. This practice protects customers and the University Store from loss should they have already purchased and received the book based upon the instructor’s original book order.


  • Instructors are asked to refrain from changing the required/recommended status of course material selections that are submitted to the University Store.

The University Store informs customers about the required or recommended status of each title both in its online title listing and on shelf tags in the store. This designation is based upon the instructor’s book order. Situations in which faculty list a title as required on the book order, but do not use it as a required course material increase the overall cost of textbooks for students and cause misunderstandings among customers, faculty and the University Store with regard to refunds for course materials.


Course Material Usage:

  • Communicate with students regarding course materials usage and cost.

Students relate the value of a textbook to the retail price of the required book and the extent to which the instructor uses a book for assignments and exams that are based on the book. Explain to students why specific course materials are chosen and how the text fits within the course.

  • Obtain feedback from students at the end of the course concerning course materials.

Assess the effectiveness of course materials with an end-of-semester course evaluation and use this information in future course material selection considerations.



Date: November 3, 2009

Revised: November 6, 2009