KU Libraries select Ljudmila Bilkić as the 2023 Textbook Hero

Ljudmila Bilkić’s Intermediate German II class redefines traditional norms. In her classroom, upbeat Spotify tunes provide a prelude to the “Foto des Tages.” The photo of the day – a manatee napping on its back -- is a nod to subtropical regions instead of arboreal forests. The class banter shifts to the treachery of a newly deposited layer of ice on campus, shared opinions of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade, and finally talk of a roommate’s unfortunate night out, which prompts a review of a variety of related medical and informal descriptive terms. 

Bilkić, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Slavic, German and Eurasian Studies, is KU Libraries’ 2023 Textbook Hero selection for making learning fun, fresh, culturally relevant, and affordable using Open Educational Resources (OER). More specifically she’s being recognized for her efforts to convert the class materials for four 100- and 200-level courses over the past two years — completing an overhaul of the entire German-language sequence after 300- and 400-level courses were converted in recent years. 

Bilkić has used an OER grant provided by KU Libraries and coordinated with the Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communications & Copyright on the transformational work. The KU OER Grant Initiative supports the adoption, adaptation, and creation of OER by KU instructors and encourages their use at KU to positively impact students. Instructors may apply for up to $5,000 to implement OER in their courses.  

Bilkić said the grant has since provided freedom, comfort, and accessibility in pushing a progressive approach to intercultural relations between students and the languages they’re learning. Some previously used materials in the German language proficiency sequence were outdated in their approach to language learning, despite being just a few years old, and Bilkić saw an opportunity to overhaul the current curriculum using the OER grant. 

“We're teaching German, but it's not just German; it's many things: how you walk through life expressing yourself, how you prepare yourself to talk in front of a camera, how to improve upon your own intercultural understanding,” Bilkić said. “There are so many other nuances to this. Having the opportunity to craft the OER, the flexibility has been incredible.”  

Additionally, the cost of German language books has increased significantly in the past decade, following the trend of class materials in general, Bilkić said. The OER grant funding provides free resources that help students worry less about the cost of material and rather focus on learning.  

“Every generation of students has a complex set of circumstances with which they're working, whether it be studying, working from home, working two different jobs, having to pay for school,” Bilkić said. “So, the access to knowledge should be the least painful thing.” 

In 2019 KU Libraries launched Textbook Heroes to recognize faculty, staff, students, and allies at KU who have taken extraordinary initiative to increase access to and affordability of required course materials by implementing and advocating for OER and other low- and no-cost course materials. Textbook Heroes are announced in the spring semester. 

“The study of German is more accessible and relevant at KU thanks to the tremendous efforts of Ljudmila Bilkić, this year’s worthy recipient of the Textbook Hero award,” said Josh Bolick, head of the Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communications & Copyright. "Thanks to previous efforts, most upper division undergraduate German language courses were using low-cost materials, but the introductory core courses were costly. Dr. Bilkić saw an opportunity to eliminate costs for students and give instructors more control over the content and utilized the OER grant to flip those courses over a two-year period. It was our honor to assist with this project and recognize her great work.” 

For information about Open Educational Resources grants, contact Heather Mac Bean, Open Education Librarian, at oer@ku.edu or heather-macbean@ku.edu.