This semester’s book budget recently became significantly less intimidating for the 725-odd students enrolled in the 14 sections of Management 1104 (Foundations of Business) in Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business.

In partnership with Virginia Tech Libraries, the college has made a required material for the course — "Fundamentals of Business," a 440-page book — free of charge online as an open-educational resource.

“Last year, I used a 4-year-old book that students could have bought used online for as little as about $20, but I still found locations charging as much as $215 for it,” said Stephen Skripak, a professor of practice in the management department and lead author of the textbook. “The free book serves two purposes — students won’t get ripped off, and the new book is also easier to read and matches up more exactly to what we wanted to cover in the course.”

Since "Fundamentals of Business" was made available in August on the university's platform for publicizing and preserving scholarly work, the textbook, VTechWorks, has been accessed over 1,500 times.

One of the first things that students see after opening the file is a dedication page from Skripak, that reads, “This book is dedicated to reducing the cost of education in business.”

According to Anita Walz, the open education, copyright and scholarly communications librarian for University Libraries, Skripak and his colleagues started with an openly licensed textbook created in 2011. Through a grant from the University Libraries, three students were hired to peer-review drafts of the text. The Pamplin faculty and librarian team worked together through details of updating data, designing new figures and ensuring web and print-on-demand ready layout.

The resulting work, "Fundamentals of Business," is licensed as an open-education resource, which allows modification and non-commercial redistribution, providing there is attribution.

“The book is representative of a larger movement to empower faculty to freely adopt, adapt and author a myriad of course types,” Walz wrote in a library blog post. “We hope that many other institutions will take advantage of the opportunity to adopt, adapt or remix the book to fit their needs.”

An often-overlooked cost of a university education is the amount of money that books and other academic supplies can total. While federal and local government grants and educational loans can help economically disadvantaged students with the costs of tuition, paying for these either mandatory or all-but mandatory supplementary materials, like textbooks, can be a challenge.

In Virginia Tech colleges like Pamplin, where it is not uncommon for professors to require that students purchase books that they themselves have authored (in some cases, collecting royalties with each purchase), this is a welcome change for many financially conscious students.

“The reason to depart from the established system is that the cost of education is getting unaffordable for many,” Skripak said. “I can’t change the cost of tuition or other aspects of education, but I can at least do my little part to impact the things I can.”

"Fundamentals of Business" is available in both PDF and editable Microsoft Word document formats.

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