Graphic novelist, professor Jeremy Short Q&A on TEDxOU conference
University of Oklahoma professor Jeremy Short will speak on textbooks he’s created in graphic novel format at Friday’s TEDxOU conference on the University of Oklahoma campus.
Short is the Rath Chair in Strategic Management at OU’s Price College of Business. He also co-authored the first Harvard business case in graphic novel format. He’s written textbooks in graphic novel format including “Managing to Succeed,” the sequel, “Atlas Black: Management Guru,” and co-authored“Tales of Garcon: The Franchise Players” and “University Life: A College Survival Story.”
He talked about the ‘graphic’ approach to education and what he sees in the future of textbook publishing in a Q&A with The Oklahoman.
Matt Price: Tell me about the talk you’re giving at OU.
Jeremy Short:Education is a constantly evolving realm. Educators now have the ability to conduct online delivery of courses, create elaborate PowerPoint slides with interactive video clips to illustrate content, and engage students through service and/or hands-on learning activities that apply their learning to the world beyond classroom walls.
But textbooks remain the same dull, expensive tomes they’ve been for decades. Until now.
So, I’m speaking on the ‘graphic’ approach to education that I’ve developed by writing several graphic novels on management, entrepreneurship, and college survival. I also co-authored a number of graphic novel journal articles, as well as the first (and perhaps only) Harvard Business School Case in graphic novel format. Most recently, I co-authored a free online textbook that incorporates a graphic intensive approach to teaching key concepts in my primary area of study – strategic management. What’s new about all of these works is that they are graphically interesting and convey what we’ve known for years – individuals lean better through memorable visual storytelling. What might surprise some is that textbooks don’t have to be boring.
Matt Price: What’s the focus of the conference?
Jeremy Short: TED conferences focus on ‘ideas worth sharing.’ Previous TED events have featured talks by Bono, Bill Clinton, Dave Eggers, Bill Gates, and Malcolm Gladwell. This conference is part of a locally organized TED event featuring ideas worth sharing from creative minds with Oklahoma ties.
Matt Price: Tell me about your plans to launch a free version of your textbook on the iPad.
Jeremy Short: The book is available now, online, for anyone to read as many times as they like. 100% free without ads. The lead author, Dave Ketchen at Auburn worked with me on several of the graphic novels as well as some journal articles in graphic novel format. The book reads great on the iPad, but fortunately it looks great on any computer. Here’s a link to the book:
Matt Price: How do you see textbook publishing changing in the coming years?
Jeremy Short: I think the market has to change in two key ways. Fortunately it is already making the metamorphosis.
First, the prices of most textbooks ($100+) are a complete rip-off. I’ve taught my class without a book at times, and now I’ll use our free book. But I think costs must come down and that’s starting to happen. Apple’s big announcement about education last week shows that lots of folks are interested in more affordable options. The good news is that there has already been a lot of movement in this area with companies like my publisher, Flat World Knowledge.
I think the second important change is that textbooks have to become more approachable and engaging. Falling asleep shouldn’t be the default behavior when a student opens a textbook. To say this another way – textbooks in my area of study (strategic management and entrepreneurship) convey valuable knowledge of interest to a wide audience. So, they should be written in a manner where anyone would be interested in buying the books (not just students taking a class)
To make that transition between student only and wide-audience interest one approach I’ve used is the graphic novel text. So, instead of having a book with many unrelated examples, our books apply content using characters and a storyline. And, these books are only around $20 each so they are still much less expensive than traditional textbooks. Used books on Amazon.com are even less expensive. Our first book, “Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed” focused on two college students considering starting their own business. In the sequel, “Atlas Black: Management Guru?” we see the business being opened.
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