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Open Textbook Workshop: Open Textbook Workshop

What Does OER Mean?


Open educational resources are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research, and other purposes.

From Creative Commons

An OER is licensed such that it gives users permission to: 

  • Retain - the right to own, archive, and make copies of the content
  • Reuse - content can be reused in its unaltered form
  • Revise - content can be adapted, adjusted, modified, and altered
  • Remix - original or revised content can be combined with other content to create something new
  • Redistribute - copies of the content can be shared with others in its original, revised or remixed form

From David Wiley

Why OER?

U.S. Student PIRG Reports by Ethan Senack et al. 

College Textbook prices have risen 88% since 2006 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, September 2016

Triaging Textbook Costs from Inside Higher Ed

Open Education Fact Sheet by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)

A Faculty Perspective on Open Textbooks by Prof. Rajiv Jhangiani

2017 Babson Survey on the State of OER in U.S. Higher Ed. commissioned by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

OER Stories from faculty at Washington State Community and Technical Colleges

Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions by John Hilton

The Review Project by the Open Education Group collects studies published about OER implementation and evaluations

In 2018, we asked Bucknell students what they would do if they didn't have to pay so much for textbooks. Here's what they told us...

Travel more than I do now.
Buy better food.
I would still have to afford the ridiculous prices for food here.
Buy food to eat.
Be able to pay full tuition to go to Bucknell.
Be able to eat.
Pay for gas to go home on breaks.
Not pick classes based on textbooks.
Buy other essentials for life on campus.
Not have to constantly worry about finances.
See my mom in person.
Afford clothes
Send money to my family at home
Not cry as much as I do now.
Put more money into making music.
Quit one of my four jobs on campus.
Buy my wife a diamond ring.
Don't have to take out loans.
Be able to afford my meds and eat healthy.
Have more money to buy food and other necessities throughout the semester.
Invest my textbook money in a savings account.
Not have to constantly worry about finances.
Ease Mom's pressure on tuition.
Travel more often.
student comment
See things more positively. It's hard to when you're always struggling.
Buy a new phone and spend more on my hobbies.
Eat three meals a day.
Buy clothes instead.
Buy more food and basic necessities.
Not struggle to live off of 700 dining dollars a semester.
Buy a newer car.
Sleep 8 hours.
Be in slightly less crippling debt.
Have money to go home.

In 2020, we asked Bucknell students what they paid for textbooks this semester. Here's what they told us...

What students told us about textbook costs

Pros & Cons of Open Textbooks

Pros Cons
Low- or no-cost Cost to create and maintain
Customizable Quality concerns
Remixable Lack of ancillary materials
Available on demand Lack of incentive to create/maintain

Innovative pedagogy


Not available for every subject/topic

Finding Open Textbooks

There are various sources of open textbooks, and you can find some of them listed on our guide to OER.

For this workshop, we will focus on the Open Textbook Library.

If you want to add a book you've written to the Open Textbook Library, or if you know of a book that you think should be add, see the library's criteria for inclusion for new open textbooks.

What is a Creative Commons license?

Creative Commons licenses provide a standardized way for authors and creators to grant the public permission to share and use their creative works. Creative Commons licenses mix and match the following elements:

attribution symbol Attribution (BY)
Give credit to the original author
share alike symbol Share Alike (SA)
Distribute derivative works under the same license
non-commercial symbol Non-Commercial (NC)
Only use the work for noncommercial purposes
no derivatives symbol No Derivatives (ND)
Only use verbatim copies of the work
CC BY license CC BY ND license
CC BY SA license CC BY NC SA license
CC BY NC license CC BY NC ND license

Combining Openly Licensed Resources

Remixing openly licensed content? Use the License Compatibility Chart to determine whether content can be combined.

Note: apply the most restrictive license to the newly created work.

Evaluating Open Textbooks

In addition to the usual criteria you apply when examining course materials for use in your courses, when reviewing open textbooks you may want to consider the following in your evaluation:


  • Is the resource in the public domain?
  • Does it contain a Creative Commons (or other open) license? If so, which license?
  • Which of the 5 Rs apply?
  • Does the license allow you/your students to do what you want (5 Rs) with the content?

The ALMS Analysis (David Wiley)

  • Access to editing tools - to what extent can the content be revised or remixed using freely available tools that are platform agnostic?
  • Expertise required - what level of expertise is required in order to use the technology to remix or revise the content?
  • Editable - to what extent is the content editable (i.e., PDF vs. Google Doc)
  • Accessibility - can the content be consumed through freely accessible platforms, is it ADA compliant, and are there various options for access (i.e., online and print)?

The Open Textbook Library has its own set of criteria for evaluating their open textbooks.

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Attribution and Reuse

Some of the content and the layout of this guide come from Cailean  Cooney's "Open Educational Resources (OER)" guide for Ursula C. Schwerin Library New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York, which was available through the LibGuides Community, and used with permission.