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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2018 / May 

Open textbook “Fundamentals of Business” surpasses 100,000 downloads

May 15, 2018

Collaborators Anita Walz and Stephen Skripak increased access and affordability of an undergraduate business textbook for students worldwide.

Anita Walz and Stephen Skripak
Collaborators Anita Walz and Stephen Skripak increased access and affordability of an undergraduate business textbook for students worldwide.

The high cost of college textbooks and other learning materials is a challenge that many students have difficulty overcoming, causing them to either take out unnecessary loans or refuse to purchase required course materials.

Stephen Skripak, Pamplin College of Business professor of practice, and Anita Walz, the University Libraries open education, copyright, and scholarly communication librarian, teamed up to help students overcome that challenge.

In 2016, Skripak and Walz released the openly licensed and fully available textbook “Fundamentals of Business.” To date, the online version of “Fundamentals of Business” has been downloaded more than 100,000 times worldwide and is available in print for just $17 on Lulu.com.

“With the cost of educational materials becoming unaffordable for many students,” Skripak said, “it is extremely gratifying to have contributed to an open source text that saves a student more than $200 every time it is used in a course.”

Up until 2016, Skripak noticed that textbook costs had risen to around $220 for his introductory business course “Foundations of Business.” In an effort to both cut learning costs and maintain student engagement, he and Walz embarked on a 14-month project to find an existing, open-source business text and modify it to fit current technology and pop culture references, as well as screen readability.

With the assistance of Walz, Skripak found an existing text that was openly licensed with a Creative Commons license allowing for modification with attribution and noncommercial sharing. Over the span of the project, Skripak removed nearly 50 percent of the original text, reorganized the chapters, rewrote sections, invited contributing writers, and implemented new graphics. Pamplin colleague Katy Cortes also made significant contributions to the text. The process of adapting the book highlights the transformative value of open educational resources; users are able to adapt and remix rather than start from scratch.

During the course of four semesters, Skripak has further improved the text, and the University Libraries’ digital publishing team is currently working on a new version for this fall. While the first version was available as a downloadable file, the new version is hosted online by PressBooks. The web-hosted “Fundamentals of Business” contains updated chapters as well as quiz and multimedia plugins so that students can check their reading comprehension and watch videos explaining certain topics.

University Libraries digital publishing specialist Corinne Guimont is a member of the team reworking the text. Not only is her team changing where “Fundamentals of Business” gets read, she and her colleagues want to change how it’s read as well.

“PressBooks is a platform that allows for increased user engagement,” Guimont said. “The new version of ‘Fundamentals of Business’ will let students click though the content as they would on a blog or web page and therefore interact more with their learning.”

The updated version also allows professors better accessibility to the text. Since it is an open-source learning material, professors worldwide will easily access the source text and adapt it to their needs. Skripak and the digital publishing faculty recognized that the original PDF and accompanying Word document limited editing abilities, but PressBooks allows users to export the text in multiple formats such as HTML, XML, ePub, and Open Document.

Additionally, the site will feature a sidebar table of contents so that users will not have to scroll through 400 pages to find specific topics. Even so, some readers may prefer a hard copy for notetaking and a more tactile experience; for this, the team is also working on creating a print-on-demand version.

For more information about open educational resources, contact Anita Walz at arwalz@vt.edu.

— Written by Alec Masella

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