Contributor: Sherri Singer, Alamance Community College.

Across the country this semester, students have gone back to college. Their backpacks are filled with textbooks, paper, pens, pencils, laptops, and calculators. Many of those backpacks will weigh more than 30 pounds and be filled with materials that cost students on average $1,250 each semester (College Board). Backpacks are so heavy that colleges such as Boston University are providing guides for packing light and issuing warnings to students about carrying backpacks weighing more than ten percent of their body weight. A generic textbook will weigh between three and five pounds. If students average two or three classes per day, they have almost maxed out their recommended backpack weight.

As instructors, we expect students to come to every class prepared and to bring all of their supplies. However, have we stopped to consider our students? Do they need to bring everything every day? Will they use each of these items every day? And, are we using each of these resources enough to justify having students purchase and carry them?

If we expect students to carry over ten percent of their body weight around each day and spend over a thousand dollars for texts and supplies each semester, what should they expect in return? As you return to the classroom think about your backpack. Are you prepared for each class? Do you have an energetic presentation? Are you using each resource daily that you require students to bring, or do you acknowledge days when resources are not needed? What’s in your backpack this semester?


College Board, article accessed 1/11/16

Boston University, Backpack Safety 101, accessed 1/11/16
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This content comes from a collaboration between Cengage Learning and the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD), a membership organization committed to promoting and celebrating excellence in teaching, learning, and leadership at community and technical colleges. Recognizing the growing need for adjunct support, Cengage Learning and NISOD are partnering to co-host a series of webinars, podcasts, and blog posts covering professional development topics for adjunct faculty and administrators. To learn more about this partnership, visit //