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Faculty Guide: OER & Open Textbooks

A faculty guide for accessing and adopting open educational resources and textbooks

Getting Started

Welcome to our faculty guide on Open Educational Resources (OER) and open textbooks. This guide will provide an introduction to OER, as well as resources to find, evaluate, adopt, and use OER in your course. 


What are Open Educational Resources? 

Creative Commons provides this excellent definition: “Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities–Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute.”



Why OER?

Because OER are free and accessible, all students have access to their textbooks on the day the course begins. Research reviewed by the Open Education Group shows that most students perform as well or better using OER course materials compared with students using traditional textbooks.

OER can provide significant cost savings to students, but its impact goes even further. When textbooks are a financial burden, a student may delay the purchase of a textbook or never purchase a textbook. Without access to a textbook, a student’s academic success can be impacted by earning a poor or failing grade. The cost of textbooks may also impact enrollment and completion rates.


What is an open textbook?

A textbook becomes “open” when its copyright holder grants usage rights to the public through an open license, which typically includes the right to access, reformat, and customize it at no additional cost.

Learn more about the copyright and licensing of OER on our Creative Commons page.


Are open textbooks high quality?

Many open textbooks are developed through traditional peer review; others are vetted by experts. As with any textbook, you are the final judge of whether an open textbook meets the needs of your course.

Open textbooks are similar to traditional texts but much more flexible. If desired, you may create a custom version by editing it yourself to match your classroom instruction.

See our Evaluating OER page for more guidance on selecting an open textbook. 


What do open textbooks look like?

Open textbooks are available in both digital and print formats:

  • Online
  • Downloadable PDF/ePub
  • Print-on-demand

Many open textbooks have accompanying ancillary materials (e.g., test banks, quizzes, and/or PowerPoints) for faculty as well.