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OER Textbooks: Perfect for the Age of COVID-19

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.

 


face shot of business librarian

Linda Hauck, MLS, MBA, is Business Librarian for Falvey Memorial Library.

 

 

 


 


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Open Education Week Resources for Faculty

By Linda Hauck

Open Education Week 2020 Logo

Textbook costs make  Villanova students feel “broke,” “frustrated,” “like a cash cow,” “stressie & depressie,” and “overwhelmed.” This is what Librarians tabling in Falvey for Open Education Week heard from the many students that stopped by to chat.

We also heard that students use a variety of coping mechanisms for dealing with high textbooks costs, including some recommended by the Affordable Materials Project, such as rentals, used books, or EZBorrow, but others less effectual, such as “stop buying books and hope for the best,” or less ethical, such as sourcing their textbooks from piracy websites.

Villanova faculty work diligently to source assigned course reading from library subscribed content, make extensive use of eReserves, prescribe the use of previous editions, and use other means to suppress materials costs. More can be done.

A few have adopted Open Educational Resources (OER), free, open licensed, accessible materials in a variety of formats that can be used, distributed, and edited to suit local educational objectives. The most widely used OER are textbooks designed for introductory courses such as those published by OpenStax.

To learn more about OER, check out our OER page or request a workshop at Falvey.

Additionally, faculty will find there are many webinars (filterable by language and online) happening this week offered as part of Open Education Week. You’ll be able to view programs on the basics of how to find suitable OER, panel discussions on switching to OER, workshops on using authoring tools, such as Libretext, and discussions on the intersection of OER with social justice, inclusive practices, and academic excellence.


Linda Hauck, MLS, MBA, is the Business Librarian at Falvey Memorial Library.

 


 


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Last Modified: March 2, 2020