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New business eText means fun for faculty, savings for students

Business faculty collaborate to create interactive eText that helps students master the writing they will do in their careers

Want to see a textbook case of how to make teachers and students happy? Look no further than the Kelley School of Business, where instructors have collaborated with IU Press on an interactive eText — saving students cash while fostering faculty creativity.

Co-authored by senior lecturers Anna Easton, Jeanette Heidewald, Michael Morrone, Darryl Neher, and Judy Steiner-Williams, Strategic Business Writing (SBW) is a versatile and inexpensive modern textbook for Bus C-204 and C-205, intensive business-writing courses that help students master the real writing they will do in their careers.

Nothing can dampen an instructor's enthusiasm quicker than the perennial challenge of locating an inexpensive and thorough textbook in step with today’s students. That's why Kelley faculty jumped at the chance to give students a high-quality, easily accessible eText, said Sue Vargo, director of Kelley’s communication skills and professional skills area.

In use since fall 2013, SBW is the offspring of seven years of committee meetings, personal research, and late-night brainstorming sessions. But instead of following the traditional model — page succeeding page and chapter succeeding chapter — the authors conceived SBW as layered course material students can personalize with a variety of supplemental articles and videos — more like a website.

"There’s a sequential logic built into traditional texts that we tried to strip away," said Neher. "SBW approaches a truly interactive text matching the way students now consume information."

While playing to students' digital capabilities, the eText is also a versatile teaching tool. Unlike a bulky textbook where large sections are left unused, faculty trimmed SBW to 150 pages emphasizing only key concepts.

"It doesn’t matter whether you like to lecture, if you’re into active learning, or like to have your students in teams, the flexibility with SBW allows an instructor to adapt it to her own teaching style," Morrone said.

Faculty can also tailor SBW with individual notes and make revisions without impacting cost. More importantly, instructor-managed content ensures the text responds to workplace skills demanded after graduation.

Instructors can also track how students are responding to the textbook — so they can see who is reading and who might need some encouragement. In two semesters, 1,561 students have generated close to 20,000 annotations, highlights, and general notes (about 12 per person).

Since SBW is also fully searchable, students can easily find a term or concept. By sharing links or discussing examples of a topic covered in class, students create their own layer of engagement beyond the classroom.

SBW is written as if a teacher was standing right next to students, answering their questions beforehand.  This conversational quality has instructors raving about the class time they save. And — at 35% lower cost than a paper version — SBW wows parents and students with the money they save.

The new Kelley School of Business eText saves time and money and engages students in a manner consistent with their increasingly digital lives. Perhaps most impressive is how the collaboration has helped faculty recapture the spark that brought them into higher education.

"I found researching, writing, and revising SBW to be a creative, interesting endeavor," said Heidewald. "If you can get faculty to be part of knowledge creation and not just knowledge delivery, then you can sell your university as having higher-quality instruction—because you do."