Tuesday March 8, 2011

A Free Textbook

A University of Dayton professor has written a new business textbook that students can read for free online.

When Terence Lau wrote a new business textbook, he wanted to deliver course content in an engaging, fun way, with multi-media and up-to-the-minute relevancy — and he wanted to let students have it for free.

"Textbooks are extremely expensive," said Lau, associate professor and director of international business at the University of Dayton. "I thought it just wasn't fair."

So Lau teamed up with Flat World Knowledge, the largest publisher of free and open college textbooks for students worldwide to publish The Legal and Ethical Environment of Business in January 2011. Flat World is a commercial pioneer in the growing open content movement to make educational materials freely available online and accessible to everyone.

Under Flat World's open textbook model, students can read peer-reviewed and professionally-developed textbooks in their entirety online for free, or purchase print books, e-books for devices such as the iPad and Kindle, audio books, PDF downloads and interactive study aids. All formats are sold at a fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks. 

Lau estimates that his book would cost upwards of $170 if published in the traditional way; students can view it online or purchase a hard copy of the new textbook for $35.

"For many students, although it's free online, buying a hard copy is a better choice," he said. "That's what this is all about. This gives them the choice."

Lau is currently using the textbook in his Legal Environment course, which is a required course in most business curriculums.

Lau co-wrote the book with Lisa Johnson, associate professor in the School of Business and Leadership, at the University of Puget Sound. The authors have taught the legal environment of business course to thousands of students for more than 15 years.

In addition to the open source book, Lau and Johnson also maintain a blog at http://legalenvironment.flatworldknowledge.com in order to "keep it fresh and alive for the students."

Although Lau's background is in law — he's an attorney who served as the 2006-07 Supreme Court Fellow assigned to the Supreme Court of the United States — he wanted to make the legal material easy to understand and relevant to business students, while maintaining the academic rigor the course demands, he said.

"By emphasizing real-life examples, with links to videos and multimedia exercises, our book is very much geared to tech-savvy students and the ever-changing world of business and the law," Lau said.

According to The College Board, students are spending an average of $1,137 in 2010-11 for textbooks and supplies. Since 2009, Flat World has worked with more than 1,600 faculty at more than 900 colleges, ranging from Cornell University to Columbus State Community College to the California State University System.

For more information, contact Terence Lau at terence.lau@notes.udayton.edu.