Opening textbooks for all: open education

Rachel Becker, Librarian

In a world where everything costs more and resources are tight, textbooks can be difficult to fit into a student budget. Even for students enrolled in a course that allows them to rent their required books for the semester, other materials such as access codes for online course content or lab equipment can add strain. Studies show students living on tight budgets often skip buying required books to pay for food, housing and childcare.
However, one tool has emerged to help address this situation: open educational resources. These resources provide the same curricula support as traditional textbooks but are published under a copyright license that lets anyone access them online or print them for free. Unlike other freely available content floating around the internet, open educational resources are often extensively peer reviewed by subject experts and contain high quality up to date information. Instructors can customize course content to fit their teaching style and preferences by reorganizing the online content or adding their own updates.
Since printed versions of an open educational resource textbook can be included in the college’s Textbook Rental Program, students can choose how they would like to interact with the material — online through the freely available link, using a printed version or printing select sections for themselves. This increases access for busy students and allows them to learn in whatever space is comfortable. In addition, the flexible copyright allows the material to be made accessible immediately based on universal learning design or student accommodation needs, further ensuring students can stay caught up with their homework from day one.
You might be thinking, this sounds fabulous! How can I get started? Great question! Instructors can browse the library’s open educational resources guide to learn more, finding openly licensed materials (not just textbooks; videos, lesson plans, etc.) and including open educational resources as part of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: You don’t need to do this work alone. The library has an open educational resources librarian (me!) who is happy to help you locate materials, compare open educational resources with your existing materials and help guide your discovery.
In addition, I am happy to visit your department meetings to share resources. And I also welcome questions from students on advocating for affordable and open access learning materials. Open educational resources provide exciting opportunities to shape courses into flexible and inclusive learning spaces for both instructors and students. Spend a few minutes exploring it today!