SGA Makes Awards to Faculty Who Use Open Resources
April 29, 2019

The Student Government Association (SGA) held an awards ceremony in Hodges Library on April 25 to recognize UT instructors who use open educational resources (OER) in their courses. Winners of the SGA Open Education Award were selected from instructors nominated by their students.

Winning instructors were Alex Bentley from the Department of Anthropology; Donna Bueckman, Economics; and Kenneth Kihm, Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering.

Why do open educational resources matter? Open textbooks — one type of open educational resource — can be read online for free, potentially saving each student hundreds of dollars. The university’s Open Textbook Working Group estimates that open textbooks saved UT students a total of $816,600 over the 2018-2019 academic year.

When nominating their instructors for the SGA award, grateful students noted those costs savings. One student told the awards committee, “Because I was able to have access to this book for free, I am able to take my education further. I now have the funds I saved by not having to buy a book to use toward other aspects of my education. This also lightens my load of worry, which helps me to concentrate and learn.”

Donna Bueckman’s sections of ECON 201 reached 918 students this year, so her adoption of an open textbook translates to student savings of $91,800. 

In addition to being free, openly licensed textbooks can be customized by local faculty to better fit the content and goals of their own courses.

Alex Bentley taught a graduate-level Anthropology course on big data and used a variety of open data repositories, introduced a number of open source software programs, and adopted an open textbook to help his students learn the programming language R. One of Bentley’s students reported on the success of his teaching method: “Most students in our class had limited coding knowledge; however these open access resources helped us to overcome this issue and master programming in R . . . As a result of this terrific class I presented a short paper in a conference.”

Kenneth Kihm was one of several faculty members who received a UT Open Textbook/OER Grant last year to adopt and customize an openly-licensed textbook. One of the students in his Aerospace Engineering 351 class was enthusiastic about the result: “The practice of using open textbooks should be implemented much more often.”

Also honored at the awards celebration was Barbara Murphy of the School of Music. Murphy received the UT Libraries’ Trailblazer Award for creating an online resource for Music Theory Materials with grant funding from the Division of Student Life and support from the UT Libraries and the Office of Information Technology.

Other instructors nominated for the SGA Open Education Award were: Stan Guffey, Biology; Brian Edwards, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Mark Tabone, English; Margie Abdelrazek, Marianne Breinig, and Jian Liu, Physics; and Jeff Larsen and Elliott Spengler, Psychology.

Read more about open textbooks.