SGA Open Education Award Winners Announced
April 12, 2017

Have you heard about open textbooks or open courseware? UT’s Student Government Association worked with the University Libraries over the last year to launch an award recognizing instructors who use open educational resources, including free and openly licensed textbooks, in their courses.

On Tuesday, April 18, the SGA Open Education Awards will be presented to instructors of three courses at the University of Tennessee. The ceremony will take place at 3:30 p.m. in the Wooten Commons West on the second floor of the John C. Hodges Library.

The winners of one award are the instructors of Geography 101. These instructors decided to pilot the use of an open textbook from the Open Textbook Library this semester, and two students nominated their instructors of this multi-section course for the award.

One student wrote, “I used this textbook for the assigned class reading which ultimately helped me with homework, tests, and quizzes. It saved me so much money, and I appreciate it so much.” There are approximately 570 Volunteer students enrolled in Geography 101 this spring. Using an open textbook in Geography 101 saved students approximately $56,180 this semester.

For his graduate-level statistics course, educational psychology and counseling professor Louis Rocconi uses an open textbook that includes additional simulations and case studies, developed by David Lane at Rice University. The student who nominated Rocconi wrote, “I appreciated that Dr. Rocconi used open textbooks. Many statistics textbooks cost over $100 and are cost-prohibitive, but Dr. Rocconi used two open access textbooks that were free and did a great job at teaching us what we needed to know. The relief from the stress of having to purchase expensive books was amazing.”

These instructors follow the example set by Marianne Breinig, a professor of physics at UT. She began using an open textbook for her Physics 221 and 222 courses. Breinig uses the open textbook because she sees a great deal of similarity among all physics textbooks at the introductory level and likes that the text is freely available to all students, eliminating a barrier to accessing course readings.

Her colleagues in physics agree. All sections are now using the open textbook College Physics. With between 700 and 800 students each semester, the cost savings for these students really adds up. Breinig will receive the Open Education Trailblazer Award at the award ceremony in Hodges Library on Tuesday.

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