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Drexel Library

Open Educational Resources - OER: FAQ for Faculty

Resources for faculty and instructional designers looking for open access textbooks and other free educational resources in support of courses and curriculum.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Other Alternatives to Commercial Textbooks

As students across the country face unprecedented financial decisions in the year ahead, Drexel faculty and staff continue to look for ways to reduce the cost of education. Among the many financial choices a Drexel student makes is whether or not to purchase a textbook. The average Drexel student pays $1,700 for books and supplies each year. The current economic climate makes it difficult for some students to purchase these required materials.
Open educational resources (OERs), including open textbooks, provide one way to reduce the overall cost for Drexel students. OERs can be textbooks, videos, assignments, or other educational objects; their common thread is the ability to freely use, copy, adapt, and share them because of an open license or public domain status. 


How can faculty incorporate open textbooks into their syllabi?
Faculty can approach OERs with varying degrees of anticipated involvement. Where one instructor might choose to incorporate one or two chapters from an open textbook, another might select only freely-available content.  Additionally, using both open textbooks and existing subscription resources available from the Libraries allows students to meet learning outcomes with reduced costs. Here are some ways to consider reducing student textbook costs in the classroom:

Free unlimited student access Free access while DU student Costs less than student purchase of own textbook Full cost of textbooks

Faculty-created OER

OER/Open Textbooks by others customized for Drexel course

Open Access articles and book chapters

Open access auxiliary materials (e.g. lecture notes, text banks)

Faculty exercises and notes

DUL licensed and owned materials (e.g. books, video, and journal articles)

Some students choose to share a textbook with other students, an option that may be difficult in most remote-learning situations. Single-user digital auxiliary materials are a challenge for this situation.

Student pays for auxiliary material layer on top of OER (e.g. B&N’s OER+ program, currently under negotiation)    All students acquire their own textbooks.

All students acquire their own textbooks.

We recommend faculty use course reserves to provide access to materials, whether incorporating open textbooks, DUL-licensed content, or personal print copies of commercial textbooks.

Where can faculty find open textbooks?
Two of the biggest providers of open textbooks are through the Open Textbook Library and OpenStax, but there are many options available. The Libraries have assembled a guide to finding and selecting OERs to make this process easier for faculty.
How can faculty determine the quality of open textbooks?
Some open textbook providers, such as the Open Textbook Library, make their materials available for peer review, and publish those reviews alongside the textbook itself.  For the Open Textbook Library, only faculty who have undergone training from the Open Textbook Network are invited to review. Faculty should look for a review when evaluating open textbooks, or make an independent decision by reading through an open textbook for themselves.

Will open textbooks come with auxiliary materials, such as quiz banks?
Many commercial publishers supply a layer of value-added materials to textbooks in the form of quiz banks, lecture materials, lab notebooks, and other objects. Faculty who consider these value-added materials as an important part of the classroom can look at freely available auxiliary materials designed to accompany OERs, such as the lecture notes, data sets, and assignments posted in OER Commons, the interactive simulations in PhET, and the 3D models and exercises in LibreTexts. Or, faculty take a hybrid approach, such as one offered by Barnes & Noble’s OER+ program. This program takes open textbooks and adds a layer of supplementary materials at a cost of $25 per student, still lowering the overall cost of textbooks while also still meeting faculty needs.

Manager, Scholarly Communications & Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian