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Faculty Information

Affordable Course Materials Information

Traditional textbooks are cost prohibitive for many of our students. Not only are the sky-rocketing costs of textbooks a contributor to the financial challenges faced by many college students, but they are also detrimental to student success in any course for which the textbook is unaffordable. The Open Educational Resources (OER) movement is addressing these issues by democratizing learning and opening up access to the materials that facilitate it. 

OER include any teaching and learning materials that are openly available through an intellectual property license that permits their adaptation and use.

OER come in the form of textbooks, assignments, assessments, lectures, learning activities, lesson plans, and more. The hallmark of OER are the 5 Rs: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute. Through open licenses typically from Creative Commons, creators of OER ensure that the content they create is accessible, adaptable, and usable by others who need it.

There are other options for affordable course materials in the classroom as well, by making use of library eBooks, full-text articles for class readings and discussion, and other means. Contact Bret Stiffler, Systems Librarian (412-578-6137) to get started.

Many professors are making use of library eBooks in the classroom, as an alternative to traditional textbooks. This has the same benefits of using open textbooks (saving students money and improving access to education) by making use of library materials. Ebooks work better as textbook replacements because they can often be used by multiple users at a time, but always be mindful of copyright and check with a librarian first!

There are a lot of myths about the OER movement. Find out the real story from SPARC's OER Mythbusting list.

  • Myth #1: Open simply means free
    • FACT: Open means the permission to freely download, edit, and share materials to better serve all students
  • Myth #2: All OER are digital
    • FACT: OER take many formats, including print, digital, audio, and more
  • Myth #3: “You get what you pay for”
    • FACT: OER can be produced to the same quality standards as traditional textbooks
  • Myth #4: Copyright for OER is complicated
    • FACT: Open licensing makes OER easy to freely and legally use
  • Myth #5: OER are not sustainable
    • FACT: Models are evolving to support the sustainability and continuous improvement of OER
  • Myth #6: Open textbooks lack ancillaries
    • FACT: Open textbooks often come with ancillaries, and when they do not, existing OER can provide additional support
  • Myth #7: My institution is not ready for OER
    • FACT: Any institution can start with small steps toward OER that make an impact for students

7 Things You Should Know about Open Educational Resources from Educause

Fixing the Broken Textbook Market from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Student PIRGs

The OER Starter Kit, a free OER eBook for faculty on how to get started using and creating OER, by Abbey Elder (2019)

Open Textbooks: BYU Researchers Show Free Resources Can Provide an Equivalent Education and Save Students Thousands (2017)

Open Textbooks Could Help Students Financially and Academically from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Open Education Group Publications, a bibliography of scholarly articles pertaining to OER from the Open Education Group (2018).

A multi-institutional study of the impact of open textbook adoption on the learning outcomes of post-secondary students from the Journal of computing in Higher Education (2015)

The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics from International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (2018).

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OER Search Tools


OASIS (Openly Available Sources Integrated Search) offers uses the ability to search a range of OER materials from multiple sources, such as textbooks, courses, corresponding materials, interactive simulations, and public domain books and resources. It was developed at SUNY Geneseo by Ben Rawlins and Bill Jones.
MOM iconMason OER Metafinder (MOM)
Advanced Search

The Mason OER Metafinder search tool is a federated, up-to-the-minute search that crawls all of the most recent publications from top OER repositories.

OER Repositories