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This semester, Zhao offered one free textbook to each section of his course. Students threw paper airplanes and the one closest to the book won it. Bay Phillips ’11 was the winner in MGMT 4850-Organizational Behavior.
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Lally Professor Pioneers the Use of Free Online Textbooks
Assistant Professor of Management Hao Zhao has found an innovative solution to the high cost of college books — using free online textbooks. Zhao is among the first professors nationwide to adopt and advocate the idea of open textbooks.

Students in Zhao’s Organizational Behavior class can access course texts online for free or buy a print-on-demand softcover version in black-and-white ($30) or color ($60) from new open textbook publisher Flat World Knowledge, where Zhao’s former student, John Britton ’09, is a lead developer.
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Hao Zhao, assistant
professor of management

“Book prices are skyrocketing, students are reluctant to buy, and publishers announce new editions every two years or so. As a business professor, I am amazed by this new open book model because it is a perfect example of how entrepreneurship can create solutions to a known market problem,” said Zhao. “I am proud to help students and their parents cut some expenses in this tough economy.”

Zhao notes that previously, only about 30 percent of his students would purchase a $100-plus textbook. However, during the fall 2009 semester, when the new $30 book was first adopted, the number of students purchasing the book rose to nearly 80 percent, while the remaining 20 percent chose to view chapters online for free. Zhao expects open-source textbooks to become the mainstream model in the next decade.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 9, May 14, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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