Published: March 2, 2020

Matthew Burrows, lecturer with the International English Center, is the recipient of the 2020 CU Boulder Open Educator Award from the University Libraries and the University of Colorado Student Government. This award recognizes his commitment to customizing and tailoring educational content to enhance classroom learning and engagement. 

Lecturer Matthew Burrows with Scholarly Communication Librarian Melissa Cantrell.

Lecturer Matthew Burrows with Scholarly Communication Librarian Melissa Cantrell.

Burrows, along with collaborators Katie Mitchell and Kendra Staley, received grant funding from the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) to adapt and pilot an open educational resource (OER) for second language learners. Over the last two semesters, Burrows has used this open textbook Preparing for University Reading in his teaching at the International English Center (IEC) where learners from more than 50 countries receive English language training. The Center offers programs that “integrate cutting-edge teaching practices and experiential learning.”

Burrows has been teaching both English as a Second Language (ESL) and English for academic purposes for over 20 years and brings that perspective to the OER movement. Describing his use of readings, Burrows is motivated to find fresh and engaging materials that introduce learners to prospective fields of study and are relevant to their lives.

“My main focus has been to adapt the materials as much as possible, to suit the students,” Burrows said. “My goal is to engage students.”

This cultural responsiveness and commitment to engagement motivated Burrows to explore the potential of open textbooks. He observed that traditional textbooks quickly went out of date or included readings far shorter than students might encounter in college classrooms. As Burrows and his colleagues were accustomed to writing quiz questions, crafting reading discussion prompts and creating new course content on a daily basis, so they were comfortable adapting and editing an open textbook. “Language complexity and cultural elements are important in ESL, and with OER you can take bits out or adjust and customize for our learners,” he noted.

The team collaborated to select five book chapters, four of which were from OpenStax, a leader in OER content development, and adapted the chapters to make them more easily readable and more accessible for international students. Then the team supplemented the materials with skills exercises, and pre- and post-reading activities. 

The text has been piloted here at CU Boulder and at Colorado State University, and will be published in May after the team has gathered feedback from teachers and learners who are participating in the pilot. Burrows described ongoing interest in collaborating with teachers in similar classes throughout the country, to refine and enhance the strides the team has accomplished.

The University Libraries and the CU Boulder Student Government co-sponsor this annual award that recognizes campus educators who demonstrate exemplary use of open educational resources in their classrooms or teaching practices. With this award, the CU Boulder Student Government and the Libraries express their appreciation and congratulations to open educator Matthew Burrows.

Learn more about OER during Open Education Week, March 2-6, 2020. This interactive Open Education Week schedule includes embedded readings, videos, and activities to help you explore Open Education, Open Educational Resources (OER), and Open Pedagogy.