Class Writes its Own Textbook

Rick Watson is director of the Center for Information Systems Leadership at UGA’s Terry College of Business. He has been teaching an XML computer programming course for several years. Unfortunately, he ran into a problem that plagues many faculty members. He was not able to find a suitable text. That is when he took matters into his own hands.

Watson recognized that with the appropriate technology, some careful planning, and the talent of his students, the class could write its own textbook. So last semester, he assigned his students the task of writing their own XML text. Each student in the class was required to write and teach one chapter. The assigned author for each chapter had an editor — the person writing the next chapter — to help decide the content of the chapter and carefully critique what was written. Watson wrote the first chapter and worked closely with each chapter’s author.

“We spent a class outlining each chapter so that the text was integrated rather than a series of independently written chapters,” he says. “Every chapter had an exercise that all members in the class had to complete to ensure development of their XML skills.”

The book was completed and made available online. Watson reports that it is used in UGA classes now. It also became an international project, as students at Fudan University in China are translating and extending the work. An Italian translation is already underway, and a Turkish university is also considering creating a Turkish edition.