It's liberating to be free of a textbook. Yes, the course has an online text, and it's a great resource, but I'm not really following it. I do end up following it because my usual sequence of topics and the sequence in the text are both heavily influenced by Statistics (fourth edition), by Freedman, Pisani, and Purves.
Mostly, though, I'm free to teach what I want, and the students are free to use any support materials they find helpful. So they are referring each other to assorted online sites, collecting materials on the course wiki, simulating on the computer, using algebra – whatever works. In a group as large as this, the list of whatever works is long.
With the web as their library, Stat 2X students are more open in their approaches to learning and problem solving than I usually find in intro courses on campus. Undergraduates who have to spend lots of money buying assigned textbooks tend to get rather annoyed if the course strays too far from the text and its methods.
But then comes the Stat 2X clamor for, "More practice problems!" and I find myself wishing I could just refer students to the appropriate section of a text. Philip's text does have assignments, and we're working on how to make those available to tens of thousands of students; but as they're not exactly in sync with the lectures, I'll have to spend some time selecting the right ones. I can't use problems from other texts for obvious copyright reasons. So I have to make my own.
Which is a hugely time intensive job ... the hardest part of creating course materials, by far, specially since I also have to write out the solutions.
Time is the resource in shortest supply. Students ask me to "please post more problems," as though I have them sitting around somewhere, all ready to be uploaded. But I don't. I solve lots of problems in class on campus, and the students and I solve them on the fly, and it's fresh and interesting and ... unrecorded. Somehow I'm going to have to create some hours to make sure students get more practice problems for their upcoming midterm exam. There better be eight days this week.
The next time I go through Stat 2X (students keep asking when, and I have no idea), I'll be able to focus largely on the exercises, and then I hope there'll be a large enough stash of them that I'll essentially have produced my own "book". Maybe I'll call it a mook.