Best Advocate for Free Education:'s People's Choice Award Winner

The OpenCourseWare movement couldn't succeed without strong advocates. The people who push for more access to free and open educational resources play an essential role. In recognition of these heroes, we debuted a new category in this year's People's Choice Awards: Best Advocate for Free Education.

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Winner: Nicole Allen

Best Advocate Nicole Allen

Who is Nicole Allen? She's the Affordable Textbooks Advocate for the Student PIRGs and the director of the Make Textbooks Affordable project. But if you were on a college campus last fall, you might recognize her as the woman behind Textbook Rebel, a giant, textbook-shaped mascot valiantly fighting Mr. $200 Textbook. That's right - she made a textbook into a superhero and took that show on the road, visiting 40 campuses from Boston to San Diego.

What was the goal? To drive down the cost of outrageously-priced textbooks and increase access to free, open resources. Allen is tackling the issue from multiple angles. In addition to raising student awareness for alternative textbook resources, such as rentals, she's challenging professors to switch from costly printed textbooks to open, free textbooks. Furthermore, she's pressuring publishers to stop releasing new editions of their books with only minimal changes.

Our voters called her an 'authority in fostering free education,' describing her in terms like 'dedicated,' 'tireless' and 'trailblazing.' One voter, who called her a 'true leader,' credited Allen as a 'mover and shaker in the movement of textbook cost reduction.' She may not wear a cape, but Allen is a hero to us.

Finalist: David Wiley

Labeling David Wiley as an associate professor at Brigham Young University is like labeling Michael Phelps as a swimmer. It's true, but it's only a small part of the story. In the field of open and online education, Wiley holds a plethora of gold medals. He's the Chief Openness Officer at Flat World Knowledge, a publisher of open-license textbooks. He serves as an Advisory Committee member for the University of the People, a non-profit, tuition-free online education provider. He also founded the Open High School of Utah, a public charter school providing pioneering online education. It's no wonder that our voters called Wiley a 'pioneer' and a 'guru of the open source movement.'

Finalist: Nick Shockey

What happens when a scholarly paper is published? Too often, it's kept locked behind prohibitively high access fees that prevent students from utilizing it as a part of their education. In 2009, the Right to Research Coalition was founded in order make that work more open and accessible. Current director Nick Shockey has been there since the beginning, leading what our voters undeniably recognized as 'an important project.' Today, Right to Research includes student organizations from throughout the world who together advocate for easier access to the academic resources that too often are just beyond students' reach.

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