Learn Business Management - POW!

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    Jan 09, 2014
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Learn Business Management - POW! Photo by David Jones

Students at Texas Tech University are learning the fundamentals of business management from Atlas Black. Atlas is a 20-something, a bit of a slacker - and he's a character in a comic book.

Professor Jeremy Short co-wrote a series of graphic novels, which he's been using instead of textbooks in his business classes, to make the sometimes dry content more accessible and engaging.

Response from students is relatively positive (it's hard to imagine a college student raving about any economics textbook), and Short says that formal evaluations showed that 86% of his students that used the book said they agreed or strongly agreed that it "compares favorably" to other management textbooks they've had.

The response from fellow academics is yet to be determined, and Atlas Black probably won't be showing up in textbooks at Wharton any time soon. However, Dale Dunn, professor and chair of the pathology department at the Texas Tech, read Atlas Black in a class taught by Short as part of an MBA program, and was receptive to the idea. He said that the graphic novel, as a genre, has yet to overcome a stigma of existing just for entertainment purposes, and it may be a challenge to get students to take it seriously. However, he said it certainly has a niche in education, and he has even been discussing the possibility with Short of creating a graphic-novel textbook for health care risk-management courses.

"As you start reading it, you start thinking, 'Can I take this seriously?' But as you get involved you realize there's more to it than just entertainment," Dunn said. "There's a lot of didactic information, and from my vantage point it was more memorable and unique because you could identify the information with specific characters."

A spokesman for Flat World, which publishes Atlas Black, said the big players like McGraw-Hill don't have any textbooks in the graphic novel format, and that Atlas Black is the first book of it's type for the open-source textbook publisher. Professor Short chose Flat World for it's affordability; students can order the book for $14.95, and it is expected to be available for free by 2011.

Jeff Shelstad, CEO of Flat World Knowledge, said the Atlas Black books are among the company's more successful products, but acknowledged that Short has an uphill battle, because of resistance on the part of academia. Still, of the 1,300 faculty members using any of Flat World's products this fall, about 25 will be assigning Atlas Black, he said.

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