Achieving tailored, lower-cost learning

By: Dr. Michael A. Brown Sr., PhD
Public Administration Professor, FIU Online


After creating a social media planning course for FIU, I struggled a bit with lesson plans. The issue was that one of the chosen textbooks, The Social Media Bible by Lon Safko and David K. Brake, did not specifically address social media and planning for the right platform in the way that I intended. The short-term solution was to have the students read parts of chapters of the book, and then read supplements that I created to better target the learning objectives.

As I decided to write a textbook that would move the students through the learning path I valued, I realized that self-publishing would deliver two benefits. The first was that I could determine the publication timeline without waiting to land a publishing contract. The second was that I could reduce the cost of the second textbook for the course. So, drawing from my published dissertation, I wrote Social Media 4EVR: Identifying, Achieving, & Nurturing Social Capital with Tracy Schario and published it in February 2014. The list price of my textbook is $5 less than The Social Media Bible, which is a benefit for my students.

I was also able to deliver a potentially bigger benefit for students, one tied to our completely online format. I published a Kindle version of the book that lists at $12.99. This allows the student the low-cost and convenient access that can make a huge difference in the online format. In addition, students are given additional reading in the form of teaching notes directly from the book to allow a deeper understanding of the text.

I’m encouraged by the results of my efforts. The textbook for the course targets the desired learning objectives because they grew directly from the text. The lower cost book option should be attractive for any student. While I realize that writing a textbook can’t always drive down cost, in this case that was exactly the outcome I achieved.

Lergia Olivo is a guest contributor with the Insider and was an Instructional Design Manager at FIU Online.