Shortly after COVID-19 forced the shift to all online instruction, the library fielded a number of urgent student requests for help accessing electronic versions of their textbooks. Some students may not have taken their textbooks home, but many were without because they shared textbooks or relied on print reserves. Sadly librarians couldn’t be of much help because commercial textbook publishers fiercely protect their revenue streams. They only license electronic versions of their textbooks to students, not to libraries for sharing.
A few students benefited from free access to textbooks offered by VitalSource and RedShelf, commercial digital content providers. But many titles aren’t included in these temporary offerings. Students had to scramble to find the money to rent electronic textbooks.
As this unprecedented semester concludes and faculty reflect on course materials selections, it is a perfect occasion to consider alternatives to commercial textbooks. Open textbooks are available online for free in multiple formats, are accessible, and have Creative Commons licenses that enable use and remixing without requesting special permission.
OER Commons and Open Textbook Library are tools for finding OER listed on our database A-Z page and on our OER guide. OER Commons is a search tool for a curated list of learning objects that are openly licensed. It includes not only textbooks but assignments, lesson plans and simulations. Open Textbook Library is a discovery tool for textbooks in use at multiple colleges or universities or which have been published by recognized scholarly societies. Some of these textbooks are reviewed and come with instructor materials.
Finding alternatives to commercial textbooks can be time consuming. Enlist the aide of your liaison librarian or use the OER help form. Tell us about your current textbook or describe your ideal, and we’ll supply you with OER options.
The Office of the Provost in partnership with the Affordable Materials Project (AMP) is happy to announce the Open Educational Resources (OER) Faculty Adoption Grant, which is designed to encourage faculty to select free, openly licensed textbooks as primary course materials. This pilot grant program will award up to five grants in the amount of $1,000 to faculty members who adopt an OER textbook as the primary learning material for a new or existing course that they expect to teach during 2020-21 academic year. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.
Linda Hauck, MLS, MBA, is Business Librarian for Falvey Memorial Library.