Mavericks Personified: Larry Walther
A book with no cover
Accounting Department Chair Larry Walther never imagined how popular his online textbook would become.
Just how popular? Try 100,000 visitors a week.
The process began five years ago when he noted that the “Principles of Accounting” Web domain was available. He secured the name and began exploring possibilities.
“I’m intrigued by the opportunities offered on the Internet to deliver information in unique formats,” he said. “The online textbook delivers more robust information than a [traditional] textbook.”
Since its launch a year ago, the site’s popularity among college students, instructors and throughout the business sector has increased each week by about 8 percent. A counter program tallies Web site hits and identifies the originating servers. Frequent visitors log in on college campuses worldwide and from U.S. corporate sites like Atmos Energy.
While viewing the usage numbers, Dr. Walther discovered something about study habits: Hits from students die on Fridays but fire up again Sunday afternoon. Student traffic peaks on Tuesdays.
Students as well as business professionals tell Walther that they like the online textbook for its interactive capabilities and cost. Free. A comparable printed textbook can run $150.
Many accounting instructors use it as a supplemental resource, but a few universities in the United States, Canada, England and Saudi Arabia have replaced their traditional textbooks with Walther’s Web version.
UT Arlington Assistant Professor Chris Skousen encourages his students to use the book as a resource because most of it deals with basic principles of accounting. Dr. Skousen teaches a higher level of accounting techniques that will be included in the online book’s last chapter.
“I think it’s great,” Skousen said. “It has great illustrations and examples and gives the depth and breadth needed to understand basic accounting skills.”
Martin Taylor, another UT Arlington accounting professor, provides a link to the book on his own Web site. Many of his students use the book for supplemental review. They find the questions straightforward and without the sidebars and distractions of a printed textbook, he said.
“Students tell me that the ‘goals achievement’ and ‘fill in the blanks’ sections help them understand frequently used terminology,” Dr. Taylor said. “The ‘multiple choice’ sections help students apply the principles to the real world.”
These are the kind of features Walther will continue to expand in the online version. He has become fascinated with Windows Media and plans to add more interactive elements over the next few years.
“It has become a lot of fun,” he said, “and I just can’t stop.”
— Kim Pewitt-Jones