Will Cross | Movers & Shakers 2020–Educators

Both a librarian and a lawyer, Will Cross says he "work[s] at the intersection of copyright education and open culture" as director of copyright and digital scholarship at North Carolina State University (NCSU). His leadership at NCSU and across the region is building support and a model for adoption of open educational resources (OER), transforming pedagogy, and impacting scholarly communications, says nominator Greg Raschke, senior vice provost and director of libraries at NCSU.

Sidsel Bech-Petersen

CURRENT POSITION

Director, Copyright & Digital Scholarship Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh 

DEGREE

MSLS, 2011; JD, 2007; both University of North Carolina

FOLLOW

@tceles_B_hsup; sparcopen.org/people/will-cross; lisoer.wordpress.ncsu.edu
lib.ncsu.edu/open-pedagogy-incubator

Photo by Charles Samuels, NC State University Libraries

 

Higher Ed Transformed

Both a librarian and a lawyer, Will Cross says he "work[s] at the intersection of copyright education and open culture" as director of copyright and digital scholarship at North Carolina State University (NCSU). His leadership at NCSU and across the region is building support and a model for adoption of open educational resources (OER), transforming pedagogy, and impacting scholarly communications, says nominator Greg Raschke, senior vice provost and director of libraries at NCSU.

Cross’s passion for open education initiatives has saved NCSU students $10 million on textbooks and encouraged adoption of OER accessible to all. Since 2012, Cross and his team have worked with faculty to advocate for low-cost alternatives to traditionally published college textbooks. NCSU’s Alt-Textbook project provides instructors mini-grants of up to $2,000 and other support to write textbooks that are free to download. A recent agreement with the University of North Carolina Press also makes print-on-demand copies available to students at cost.

"Making a choice that reduces the financial burden [on students] and levels the playing field sends a clear message that the instructor sees that burden and cares enough to support a more equitable system," Cross says.

Besides reducing students’ out-of-pocket expenses, open instructional materials emphasize innovative teaching and empower faculty to write textbooks that meet their classroom needs. When students don’t have to choose between food and books, Cross says, instructors report more students reading texts, more powerful classroom discussions, and more authentic connections between professors and students.

While Alt-Textbook is successful, it faces obstacles that include obtaining administrative buy-in. "Our real challenge is that higher education doesn’t always value instruction at all, much less experimental or innovative instruction, even when it has been shown to have a substantial impact on individual students and university goals, such as retention and pace to graduation," Cross says.

Cross’s vision goes beyond affordable open textbooks. Building on the success of Alt-Textbook, Cross and his team launched the Open Pedagogy Incubator in 2019 to bring together faculty to develop best practices for open texts and instructional materials.

Cross’s initiatives are changing the higher ed landscape, says Raschke. "Will Cross is a clear innovator in our profession, one who embodies our library values of democratizing access and supporting new pedagogies." 

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