SGA Makes Awards to Faculty Who Use Open Resources
April 24, 2018

Left to right: Morgan Hartgrove, Student Body President; honorees Judy Day, Stan Guffey, Michael Berry, Vasilios Alexiades; Maddie Stephens, 2018-19 SGA Student Services Director.

The Student Government Association (SGA) held an awards ceremony in Hodges Library on Monday to recognize UT instructors who use open educational resources in their courses.

The winners of this year’s SGA Open Education Award are Vasilios Alexiades, Michael Berry, Judy Day, and Stan Guffey.

Open educational resources (OER) are freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets that are useful for teaching and learning. Open textbooks are a type of OER that can be read online for free, whereas a traditional textbook — even texts used in introductory courses — can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars.

On average, college students spend more than $1,200 a year on textbooks, according to the College Board. When instructors adopt open textbooks in their courses, grateful students pocket the savings.

Some of those grateful students nominated their instructors for SGA awards. Biology instructor Stan Guffey, who has been assigning open textbooks in his courses since 2012, was recognized for his leadership in adopting open textbooks and for assigning an open text in Biology 150. This year, Guffey taught 375 students in his sections of Biology 150. Assuming an average textbook price of $100, Guffey saved UT students $37,500.

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. They can be modified, re-purposed, and remixed with millions of other open educational resources.

In nominating mathematics professor Vasilios Alexiades, one student noted, “The instructor shared with us open source programs, tutorials, books, papers, and more. This course is all about how to solve real-life mathematical problems. . . . The case problems in this course are so different that any textbook cannot contain all information and resourses neccesary to understand and solve them. When you use OER material, this opens the door to find more and useful material of the same kind. . . . This makes a huge impact in your learning process because you participate actively in your learning process.” According to the student judges who made the awards, “This is not just about ‘free’ textbooks, this is about a good textbook that Dr. Alexiades makes great through his teaching.”

Professors Michael Berry (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) and Judy Day (Mathematics) also were praised for adopting open resources in Computer Science 311. According to the judges, “These instructors should be applauded for taking on something new for their 2017-18 classes and for including an open textbook in their flipped-classroom experiment. Though the open textbook was not their primary textbook, it was a helpful resource for many students that worked in conjunction with an interactive text.”

The SGA and the UT Libraries have been tracking the cost savings to students attributable to open textbooks. By adopting open textbooks in their courses, UT instructors saved students almost $750,000 during the 2017-18 academic year.