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A lot of lecturers/teachers/educationists in higher education often lament that students look for quick fixes in the form of guides or short notes instead of using textbooks and in-depth reference materials for study. Guides or notes are often compressed (often simplified) study materials on a particular subject in easily digestible doses and often provide solutions or answers to frequently asked examination questions. The quality and depth is lost in the process of distillation, but most students do not seem to mind this, instead preferring the simplification offered by guides or notes.
Though I myself hesitate to use guides as replacements for textbooks, I believe that if a student wants to score higher in examinations with lesser effort, a guide seems the best method to achieve this in a shorter period of time.
Bear also in mind that guides are focussed and cover the entire syllabus of a particular subject (as prescribed by a university or institution) fully and are often a fraction of the price of textbooks. Some guides are even more attractive, providing solutions to previous question papers on the subject. This approach allows students to study entirely from an examination-oriented point of view and gives them the confidence to approach any examination on the topic if not with thorough knowledge, at least with enough to score marks. Textbooks are often not focussed and sometimes go in-depth into certain topics which are not on top of the student's priority in the limited time allotted for preparation. Many textbooks are also not syllabus-oriented, which forces students to buy or borrow multiple textbooks for the same subject. Textbooks do impart a lot more knowledge than guides or notes, but often such knowledge is often not absorbed easily in a short period of time. In-depth reference books are worse in this aspect, being tailored to qualified professionals rather than students.
The single biggest problem with the textbook approach is finding a textbook that reasonably covers the entire subject uniformly and without too much depth into specific topics. Unless a university publishes its own textbooks students will always be hard-pressed to find all the subject material quickly and easily. Yes, there is a market for smaller student-oriented textbooks too, but often they are but thinly veiled guides and lack the quality of a full-fledged text.
Unless the current system of examinations are changed and knowledge rather than memory is rewarded, there will always be a huge market for guides and notes. Forcing students to memorize a whole lot of information in a short semester rather than requiring them to understand and reproduce smaller but more manageable areas of knowledge within that subject is the single biggest reason why guides continue to remain popular. Hassled and overworked students welcome the brevity and simplicity of guides. The basic issue of course is that breadth of knowledge is given a higher priority over depth in undergraduate courses. Knowledge suffers as a result, but nobody seems to care much about it at all.
Of course, with the growing popularity of the internet as a reference tool, there is an even bigger reason why students don't want to spend a whole lot of money buying bulky textbooks or references. Notes are cheap, easily available, convenient and handy. What more do students want?
Posted on Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 10:44 IST (last updated: Wed, Nov 10, 2010 @ 12:15 IST)