Monday, January 23, 2006

Never trust a publisher

I'm getting a course off this semester for course development, mostly because the textbook publisher is changing book editions. The change in book editions is not a big problem; as usual, the changes are minor adjustments mostly designed (I think) to keep students from buying used textbooks. However, we use an on-line homework system from the publisher in large classes, and they are updating to a completely new version of the system. This is a major change for us.

This fall, after I had passed on the course to another instructor, the publisher wanted us to switch to the new system for spring semester. A system which the publisher said would not be ready until November. The instructor in charge of the course (wisely) didn't want to do this; she wanted to keep the old system for spring and consider switching to the new system next year if we wanted to. After all, we wanted time to look at the system before we committed to using it, and November was a little late to be planning for spring semester.

Well, the textbook publisher wasn't happy about this. They wanted to sell their new book and system right away. They kept pushing and pushing this, and were fairly unwilling to let us order the old system. We were planning on finding ways to do without the system altogether for the spring (and maybe forever, considering), but apparently they caved at the last minute, because our order finally showed up at the bookstore this January.

At the start of the semester, we decided to sign up for an account on the new system so we could start experimenting with it and figure out what (if anything) we needed to change. (Remember, this is the system the publisher had wanted us to be using right now.) When we applied, we got back an automatic e-mail that started with something like:
Thank you for your interest in ******. The course you have requested is currently still in development. We will send you an e-mail as soon as it becomes available....

Never, and I mean never, trust a publisher.

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