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Affordable Learning @ Cleveland State University: TEXTBOOK HERO AWARDS

Co-sponsored by the Michael Schwartz Library and the Student Government Association, the Textbook Hero Award is awarded annually to encourage and reward faculty for their work to reduce textbook costs for CSU students. The criteria for this award include:

  • Amount of effort needed and spent to replace a traditional textbook with a low-cost or open alternative
  • Impact of that replacement on textbook costs, classroom engagement, and student achievement.

We hope to continue to offer this award annually to faculty who are supporting open pedagogy and student success by considering and using openly licensed materials in the classroom.


Dr. Ramune Braziunaite, Associate College Lecturer, School of Communication

    Dr. Ramune Braziunaite

    Course: COM 332 - Interracial Communication
    OER used: Silent Racism : How Well-Meaning White People Perpetuate the Racial Divide (library-licensed ebook)
    Annual student savings: approximately $4,200

    Dr. Braziunaite's student nominator said: "[Having a free textbook] positively impacted my educational experience in the course. The textbooks provided all the information necessary to understand the course context without worrying about any book costs and its availability. The books were available online as a PDF form and being able to download them made it very easy to access."


Elia Iafelice, Associate College Lecturer, Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

    Dr. Elia Iafelice

    Course: ITN 101/102 - Italian I and II
    OER used: Spunti: Italiano Elementare 1 & 2
    Annual student savings: $10,000

    Elia Iafelice was a recipient of a Textbook Affordability Grant through the Michael Schwartz Library in Fall of 2019. You can learn more about her impressions of that experience and the open textbook she chose on our Affordability Advocates website.

    Professor Iafelice's student nominator said: "Having a free textbook alleviated the financial burden of buying expensive textbooks and allowed for everyone to be able to use the same textbook regardless of financial and socioeconomic status."


Dr. Monica Gordon-Pershey, Associate Professor, Speech & Hearing Program, School of Health Sciences

    Monica Gordon Pershey

    Courses: CSD 562, CSD 538, CSD 537 - Communication Sciences & Disorders
    OER used: Variety of library-licensed and free content
    Annual student savings: $10,500

    Dr. Gordon-Pershey uses free, library-licensed, or low-cost materials in multiple classes that she teaches, including SPH 562, SPH 538, and SPH 537. These efforts save students hundreds of dollars every semester.

    Dr. Gordon-Pershey's student nominator said, “Having open access to materials enriched my educational experience as I was not only able to read and learn about course content, but also supplemental content. In the midst of a pandemic, my finances were running thin and access to resources was scarce, so not having to go out and purchase several textbooks and additional resources for Dr. Gordon Pershey's [class] helped make my educational experience more affordable.”

Dr. April Yorke, Assistant Professor in the Speech & Hearing Program of the School of Health Sciences

    April Yorke

    Course: CSD 228 - Phonetics
    OER created: Phonetics Workbook for Students of Communication Sciences and Disorders
    Annual student savings: $10,000

    Dr. Yorke was a recipient of a 2020 Textbook Affordability Grant through the Michael Schwartz Library. The openly-licensed workbook she published, Phonetics Workbook for Students of Communication Sciences and Disorder, has been downloaded over 1000 times since its publication and has been adopted by at least six institutions.

    Dr. Yorke's student nominator said, “This workbook aligns perfectly with our weekly class lectures and lessons. It is an extension of Dr. Yorke's teaching style, so the continuity between lecture and homework is seamless! It's almost as if she's with me over the weekend helping me with my homework in person! Dr. Yorke created this educational resource with students in mind. She's said she doesn't want us to pick between buying groceries and buying a textbook. I'm a single mom of two young children, working two jobs while being a full-time student. I know what it's like to pick between the necessities and course materials. I'm incredibly grateful Dr. Yorke provides this textbook at no cost! I went into the class without the burden of additional expenses, and I honestly believe that I was better able to concentrate on the material and succeed without that worry overshadowing the learning experience.”

Dr. Toni Paoletta, Lecturer, Department of Marketing

    Toni Paoletta Dr. Paoletta was a participant in CSU’s 2020 Textbook Affordability Summer Symposium and is a poster presenter for this event (Provost’s Teaching Summit). The MBA 500 textbook she had been using prior to switching to openly-licensed materials cost $120, so her efforts saved significantly reduced textbook costs for students.

    Dr. Paoletta's student nominator said, “Quite often, I am extremely tight on money, especially during the beginning of the semester. It's not always possible for me to purchase the textbook and have it ready for the first week of class. Dr. Paoletta took a significant amount of stress off my plate by giving us these OERs. ...The textbooks are great, but the way the instructor formats my online class allows for real interaction and critical thinking. I have never had an experience with an online class that matches up to that of Dr. Paoletta's MBA 500.”

2020 TEXTBOOK HERO: Kathy Curnow, Associate Professor Department of Art and Design

    Kathy Curnow

    Course: ART 286 - African Art
    OER created: The Bright Continent: African Art History
    Annual student savings: $10,500

    In Fall of 2017, Dr. Kathy Curnow received a Textbook Affordability Grant for the development of the textbook, The Bright Continent: African Art History, to be used in her ART 286 course. ART 286 is a general education course that has high enrollment every year, meaning that many students are impacted by Dr. Curnow’s project.

    Dr. Curnow's student nominator said, "She used her own textbook that was free and online and went extremely well with the course content. It provided access to all and was well suited for the course, as well as interactive and engaging. She clearly put a lot of effort into the textbook and it is very informative and comprehensive. She cares about not having her students pay hefty prices for books."

    Dr. Curnow accomplished the impressive feat of creating an openly licensed art textbook by working closely with the library and using many of her own images. Her hard work and dedication to student success made her a perfect choice for the 2020 Textbook Hero Award.

2019 TEXTBOOK HEROES: Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel, Associate and Assistant College Lecturer, English Department, First Year Writing Program

    Melanie Gagich and Emilie Zickel

    Courses: ENG 100, 101, and 102 - First Year Writing
    OER created: A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing
    Annual student savings: $126,000

    In 2017, Professors Gagich and Zickel, from the English Department First Year Writing Program, contributed significantly to the success of CSU students and students worldwide by developing and publishing an openly licensed textbook, titled, A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing. The text was developed based on their own work and in collaboration with other instructors in the first-year writing program, supported by funding from the Michael Schwartz Library and the Provost's Office.

    This textbook is now being used in all of CSU's first-year writing courses and positively impacts thousands of students each academic year. Their innovative and collaborative work to develop the textbook, in addition to their creative use of the book in the classroom, made this project a clear choice for the 2019 Textbook Hero Award.