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Professor John Gallaugher

Open source textbook

John Gallaugher, associate professor of information systems, is giving away the content of his forthcoming textbook for free—and it was his publisher’s idea. Although Information Systems: A Manager's Guide to Harnessing Technology will not be printed until September 2009, professors worldwide have been accessing draft chapters and cases online since last September.

Dissatisfied with the quickly outdated and pricey textbooks, Gallaugher decided to publish Information Systems with a new online company, Flat World Knowledge (FWK). Two former Prentice Hall/Pearson Education executives are pioneering a new publishing model with FWK, which they founded in February 2007.

Each FWK textbook is accessible for free online and is open for authors to modify, enabling them to ensure up-to-date content and incorporate feedback from users. The complete online version FWK is developing for Gallaugher's textbook will include interactive pop-ups for keywords and definitions. FWK also offers low-cost choices for students—the print version of Information Systems starts at less than $30.

An open source textbook not only allows Gallaugher to keep pace with his rapidly changing field, but also to address the needs of students and fellow practitioners. Additionally, “There is an opportunity to have my content become among the most widely adopted material used in my discipline,” says Gallaugher. “What a great way for a faculty to have an impact.”

Gallaugher has led the charge to embrace new technology before. He started blogging in 1997—before the term “blog” existed. Week in Geek, where he shares news of developments at the intersection of business and technology with his students and the broader community of scholars, is one of the oldest continually published online digests of its kind.

Gallaugher is also the founder of the Carroll School’s TechTrek, for which he recently won the Workshop on Information Technology and Systems 2008 Instructional Innovation Award.