Best Practices for Foreign Language Textbook Companion Websites 

(Cengage, Vista, MySpanishLab, etc)

By: Helen Stapleton


Make sure that you order the correct package from the beginning.  If students will need the book for 2 semesters, they can save money by purchasing multi-semester access from the beginning. If there is a certain feature you will use, make sure it is included.

Warn students 3 weeks in advance to NOT buy/rent textbook from 3rd party sellers (like Amazon or BookByte).  We have much better results settling problems with the textbook companies and our own bookstore.  They almost always order the wrong edition or access package.  The savings is negligible, and it is often cheaper to buy the brand new textbook with access code included than it is to buy a used textbook and then purchase web access separately.

Warn students 3 weeks in advance to SAVE the access code insert.  It may appear  just like one of those annoying inserts that come in magazines and get thrown away, but is worth over $100!.

Warn students 3 weeks in advance to not activate any codes until after the first day of class.  They may decide to transfer into a different level or language, and once an access code has been redeemed, it can not be returned.  The physical book can be returned, but not the access code.

Give students the option to save money by using the etextbook that comes free with the website.  Being over 50, I feel the need for a paper textbook, but this generation is often just as comfortable with an ebook than they are with a paper book.

If you are going to make students pay for these expensive companion sites, please take full advantage of it.  Use it to the fullest extent, or don’t make them pay for it.

Do not assign any work from the textbook website until the 2nd week of class (or even after).  It usually takes a while for ALL the students to get accounts and get logged in, and it is unfair for them to be penalized for later work. Although many of these sites offer a 1-2 week grace period.  Make sure that students know about these grace periods (if applicable) so that they can get busy on the site even before their book arrives in the mail or they get their money together.

Have an orientation to the website in the first week of classes.  I do this, and it usually takes me 10 minutes to walk through the registration process and show where to find things once they are into the site.  A rep from the textbook company can zoom in as well.