Professor honored for innovation in classroom

Every semester students pay hundreds of dollars for textbooks, many of which will get little to no use and are eventually sold back at a disappointing return. The Ohio Board of Regents, led by Chancellor Eric Fingerhut, is trying to change all that, with the creation of several ‘innovator grants’ aimed at supporting faculty who are decreasing the costs of textbooks using innovative alternatives. Michael Chaney is the chief communications officer for The Ohio Board of Regents. ‘We want to find more innovative ways to reduce the costs of textbooks for students,’ Chaney said. ‘So one of the things we decided to do, knowing that we had a lot of faculty working on this already, was to try and find some of the best ideas and find ways that we can replicate it.’ Dr. Robert Huber, a professor of biology, was one of 10 faculty members in the state to be given the ‘University System of Ohio Faculty Innovator Award’ for his work in developing an online textbook for his Animal Behavior course. ‘For many years I have been trying to maintain a Web site that has additional material on it, like additional media like video clips that show animals actually behaving, flash animation and things like that,’ Huber said. ‘The reason why people really enjoy the field of Animal Behavior is because animals always do interesting things and they are just fun to watch, and the printed textbook just never really represents that part of what really is most interesting about the field.’ Using the site, Huber eventually put all the material for his Animal Behavior course online, giving his students access to all course material at no cost. ‘I felt it really was a good way of being able to create some textbook material that was public domain, free for anybody, and at the same time offer a way to weave the media files directly into that online material,’ Huber said. Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and Fingerhut have put great emphasis on making access to higher education more affordable, and they want to recognize innovators like Huber who are making strides towards increasing its attainment.’ ‘We want to heavily promote what the faculty members have already done, because we know there are more people doing it,’ Chaney said. Amanda Sipes, a senior psychology major at the University, appreciates the efforts to reduce the costs that come along with a university education. In her management course with Steve Cady, Sipes was able to access all the course material online. ‘We never really had a textbook, and we all learned a lot more,’ Sipes said. Huber stresses that these concepts are universal ideas. ‘Adoption of new ways of doing things doesn’t have to be limited to one specific area of teaching,’ Huber said. ‘It can really be used in any field of study.’