Academic journal article Business Education & Accreditation

Undergraduate Student Perceptions of a Free Textbook Alternative

Academic journal article Business Education & Accreditation

Undergraduate Student Perceptions of a Free Textbook Alternative

Article excerpt


Course content for business students should be relevant, accessible and affordable. Business and library faculty collaborated to provide undergraduate students enrolled in three sections of Introduction to Marketing with a free online content option. This option included embedded links for all course key terms and concept strategically placed in a Blackboard course site. The 87 enrolled students earned extra credit by participating in 10 surveys throughout the semester. Using content format (traditional textbook, e-book only or combination of both) as an independent variable, authors measured student perception of content quality and convenience. Findings indicate that students who used the embedded e-book links prefer this option to traditional textbooks for relevancy, accessibility and affordability. This paper discusses findings and proposes a model that promotes business and library faculty collaboration, the harnessing of existing electronic library resources and distribution of those resources to students in face-to-face, hybrid and online course environments. Recommendations for application of this model to other courses and disciplines are also discussed.

JEL: 123; M30

KEYWORDS: E-books, textbook alternatives, undergraduate, pedagogy, Blackboard


Given the digital age, information technology is a critical element of higher education. No longer are traditional textbooks the sole source of reliable, foundational course content. Electronic library resources and the internet often provide content that can support learning outcomes and serve as viable alternatives to traditional textbooks. While developing a syllabus over the summer months for an Introduction to Marketing course, a Business faculty member identified the e-book database Books 24x7, accessible via the university library, which contained updated and relevant content in support of all course key terms and concepts.

This discovery led to the following research questions: Is it possible to embed e-book database content in the Blackboard Learning Management System as an alternative to an assigned course textbook? How will students respond to the option of choosing a traditional textbook or relying on embedded links? These questions provided the inspiration for the development of this pilot course that resulted in this study.

Business and library faculty collaborated at the course level to provide undergraduate marketing students with three content options (traditional textbook, embedded e-book links from the Books 24x7 database, or a combination of the two), as the foundational content for the course. The faculty posted online surveys in the Blackboard course site at intervals throughout the term to monitor student feedback on their experience using both the traditional textbook and embedded e-book link options. Results indicate high acceptance rates of an embedded e-book link option by students resulting in increased demand for and awareness of library resources. The comparison of student perceptions of content quality and convenience indicated there was no statistical significant difference between groups that used the traditional textbook, embedded e-book links or a combination of the two.

The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. Section 2 briefly discusses the relevant literature. Data selection and research methodology are described in Section 3. Section 4 provides analysis and interpretations of the findings and Section 5 concludes the paper and offers lessons learned.


There is a recognized need for a change in pedagogical practices based on the assumption that, "within five years today's K-12 students will be showing up at colleges and universities with substantively different cultural attitudes towards e-books than today's students" (Nelson, 2008 p. 52). Nelson argues, "higher education must position itself to be ready to incorporate e-books effectively on campus" (p. …

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