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 MJ Johns, who was nominated for their CS 303E class, Elements of Computers/Programming. “MJ Johns (they/them) received their M.E.T in entertainment technology with a concentration in game design from Carnegie Mellon University and their B.A. in computer science from The Ohio State University. MJ is a mobile app developer, game and experience designer, and founder/director of the indie game studio Astire Games.”

In an email, Prof. Johns shared the reasons they create affordable courses: “When I was in college I was working part time and paying my own way, and there were several occasions where I had to choose not to take a class I wanted because the materials required were too expensive. I don’t want any student to choose not to take my class because they can’t afford the materials or textbook.” They elaborated on their process for identifying and creating materials, writing, “I do a lot of research to find free resources for students, and I also create a lot of them myself (I always try to include a mixture of video and reading sources to improve accessibility).” This hard work was reflected in the student nomination, which was especially appreciative of the materials Prof. Johns created themself and of the breadth of materials they assigned. 

If you’re looking to make a course more affordable, Prof. Johns has some advice. They recommend to “look for partnership opportunities around campus where such resources and materials could be offered to students for free – the campus libraries and labs have been very supportive and helpful whenever I have tried to make this work.” With partners like the libraries and other campus units, faculty can find access to book chapters, scholarly articles, and even software and hardware needed for the course – all for free for the student. “As for textbooks, my advice is to find out if there are websites or articles that offer similar concepts without the price barrier.” Prof Johns concluded by reiterating their commitment to creating affordable courses, stating, “It takes a bit of extra effort to make sure there are options for students, but in my mind it is well worth the extra time because there will be students who couldn’t take your class otherwise!” 

Need help finding OER and other free or low cost course materials? Contact Heather Walter, Tocker Open Education Librarian ( 

Leave a Reply