LAWRENCE — In celebration of Open Education Week, which is March 7-11, the University of Kansas Libraries and the Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright have announced the 2022 Textbook Heroes cohort. Textbook Heroes are members of the KU community who have taken extraordinary initiative to increase access to and affordability of required course materials by implementing and advocating for Open Educational Resources (OER) and other low- and no-cost course materials.
This year’s Textbook Heroes are KU Libraries OER student assistant Axel Heinichen and the Open Language Resource Center (OLRC), including Jonathan Perkins, director of the OLRC; Keah Cunningham, assistant director of the OLRC; and Katie Ashley, education program coordinator.
“It’s wonderful to have institutional partners at KU providing leadership and support for the development and use of OER in language learning,” said Josh Bolick, head of the Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright. “The OLRC provides extensive expertise in partnership with language faculty to produce high-quality, effective and engaging language OER. Beyond this local advocacy and support, the national profile of the OLRC contributes substantially to KU’s prominence in the open education landscape. It’s our honor to recognize them for their great work.”
Heinichen's projects include transitioning OER created through the Libraries’ OER grants to Pressbooks, a digital publishing platform specifically designed to support the adoption, adaptation and the creation of open textbooks. Migrating OER to this platform will make them more usable and accessible.
“I nominated Axel because the ongoing conversations with him about OER have been enlightening for me,” said Carmen Orth-Alfie, graduate engagement and business librarian and Heinichen’s supervisor. “We had a discussion when he was first starting to work about open textbooks and how it differs from having a licensed online textbook, where the license might restrict access just for that semester or maybe beyond the semester. But OERs you always have and may not read cover to cover, but you can refer to throughout your academic career.”
KU’s Open Language Resource Center is one of 16 federally funded National Foreign Language Resource Centers working to increase the nation’s capacity to teach and learn foreign languages. Perkins, Cunningham and Ashley were recognized for their direct support of language Open Educational Resources at KU and their advocacy and impact beyond KU as national leaders of languages OER, such as through conferences held in 2021 and 2022.
“Work on language OER is important not only as a means to save students money, but as a way to provide access to materials for Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) that commercial publishers would simply dismiss as unprofitable,” Perkins said. “We are happy to maximize our audience by creating materials for Spanish, French and German, but we recognize that our work on textbooks for Ukrainian, Kiswahili and Turkish may actually have a larger proportional impact.”
Established in 2019, the Textbook Heroes initiative is an ongoing effort with new champions to be added each academic year during the spring semester. To learn more about OER and KU Libraries' support, please visit the OER website or contact Josh Bolick, email@example.com.
Pictured, from left: Jon Perkins, Keah Cunningham, Katie Ashley and Axel Heinichen.