Open resource

Nick Page introduced the idea for the open resources initiative in a Student Senate bill. 

Members of student government are hosting a competition in hopes of fostering a classroom environment where professors lean on open resources rather than costly textbooks.

The Student Government Association has partnered with Bruce Herbert, scholarly communications director and faculty member in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, and Library Director Sarah Potvin, to create the first SGA Open Educational Materials Awards.

The awards will be student nominated and ultimately reward professors at Texas A&M who utilize open resources in their entry-level classes. One of the awards, the “Open Educator Award,” will reward professors who make material available for free to the students in their classes, while the other award, the “Open Educator Champion Award,” will reward professors who make material available for free to all Texas A&M students, said Potvin.

“You might not be getting as much out of your educational experience here if you can’t access the materials you need to do well in your classes,” Potvin said. “This award is an effort by the SGA to recognize that and to reward professors who are doing what they can to make class resources more accessible.”

The goal of these awards is to motivate professors to switch from current, more expensive textbooks to open-access textbooks that are offered either online or can be printed out at a much lower cost for students, said Herbert.

The idea for an open-resource competition was initially introduced by Nick Page, aerospace engineering senior, in a Student Senate bill.

“We are trying to lower the cost of attendance at A&M,” Page said. “There are not a lot of ways to do that, but this is one of them. It might take a few years to catch on, but the more publicity we can get, the faster it will catch on.”

Switching to an open-access textbook creates an enormous amount of work for professors, said Herbert.

“Changing a textbook for your class is an amazing amount of work,” said Herbert. “It can change homework, slideshows, presentations and tests. That is a lot of work.”

The awards are intended to be an acknowledgement of professors who are willing to put the time and work in to help students financially, said Herbert. Many professors will highly value these awards, because they could directly impact them, said Herbert.

“The two things that Texas A&M uses to judge teaching quality are student evaluations at the end of the course and teaching awards,” Herbert said. “Texas A&M really values these for tenure and promotion.”

All students are eligible to submit nominations, which are due by April 18, and can be located on the Texas A&M libraries website.

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