Affordable Education Champion: Erin Reilly

In celebration of Open Education Week 2023, the Senate of College Councils, the Natural Sciences Council, and UT Libraries partnered to solicit nominations from students across campus to recognize instructors who increased access and equity by selecting free or low cost course materials for their classes. We’ll be recognizing a few of those nominees this week as Affordable Education Champions!

Affordable Education Champions are instructors who assign free or low cost resources — like textbooks, websites, films, and more — for their courses. Sometimes they author their own materials, and sometimes they’re able to reuse free or low cost work created by others. We celebrate their commitment to fostering access to high quality education at the lowest possible cost barrier for their students. 

Today, we recognize and thank Prof. Erin Reilly, who was nominated as an Affordable Education Champion for ADV 365, Audience Development and Engagement.

“​​Erin Reilly is a creator, educator, and strategist with 20 years of experience inventing new approaches, products, services, and experiences about storytelling, engagement, and learning through immersive technology. As an educator, Erin currently is Professor of Practice in the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations, as well as founding Director of Texas Immersive Institute, the interactive and immersive media hub at the University of Texas at Austin focused on research, projects, and learning the future of media. Erin has been a guest lecturer worldwide at universities and industry conferences. She is an Executive Committee Board Member of the Infinity Festival, member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Interactive Media Peer Group, Past Board President of NAMLE (National Association for Media Literacy Education) and serves on advisory boards, such as SXSW Pitch and PBS children’s programming, Hero Elementary and Emmy-award winning Sci Girls.”

As the first course in the Texas Immersive sequence, Prof. Reilly’s class is designed around experiences, and especially around using technology like virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). “These tools are often too expensive for a student to have on their own, so as a professor — I should ensure they are available for them to use and experiment with…” The student who nominated Prof. Reilly as an Affordable Education Champion appreciated this commitment to putting technology like VR within reach of the students in the class. After reorganizing her class to a flipped model that allowed students time to use these tools, Prof. Reilly noticed that her students understood better what virtual worlds were like and what they could do with them. She wrote “Through weekly sandbox demos, students gain better cognitive abilities of spatial literacy and learn to identify the possible interactions that can happen within a 3D environment whether it is a physical, digital or combination of both.” Because of this focus on using technology collaboratively, the class was also able to come together into a stronger learning community. 

Providing free access to these tools  was the right thing for her students’ learning in this class, but Prof. Reilly also believes in leveling the educational playing field in general. She wrote of her decision to lower the cost barrier for her students  “There are too many things in this world that divide us but as instructors, we can combat this.” In her view “Making education affordable to everyone advances our society…. Making our materials affordable and accessible helps to address the unequal access to opportunities, experiences, skills and knowledge that will prepare our students for full participation in the world of today and tomorrow.”

If you are a faculty member who would like to discuss finding and using OER and other free or low cost course materials in your class(es), please contact Heather Walter, Tocker Open Education Librarian ( 

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