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Open Textbooks/Open Educational Resources (OER)

A general overview of the open access textbooks for faculty, students, and librarians. Topics include open access textbook resources, open access textbook models, hybrid options and electronic textbook options from textbook publishers.

Open Textbooks Are...

Freely accessible textbooks, generally accessed online. Open Textbooks are part of the larger Open Educational Resources model, an effort to make high-quality learning materials freely available in electronic formats.

In general, open textbooks exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Developed by teams of authors, paid by academic departments or supported by grants.
  • Students pay nothing for online access, but may pay for print or specific electronic formats such as ePub.
  • Can be modified by the instructor or the students

An e-textbook becomes "open" when its copyright-holder grants usage rights to the public through an "open license," which typically includes the right to access and repurpose the textbook material at no additional cost. 

Learn more...Read EDUCAUSE's 7 Things You Should Know About Open Textbook Publishing

MI Open Book Project

The MI Open Book Project is a multi-year initiative funded as part of the Technology Readiness Infrastructure Grant (TRIG). Groups of master teachers work together and collaborate to develop a open education resource for use in classrooms around Michigan.

The final products are on their website, including source files (iBooks Author and InDesign formats).

Initiatives include:

  • Kindergarten
  • 1st Grade Families and Schools
  • 2nd Grade Communities
  • 3rd Grade Michigan History
  • 7th Grade Ancient World History
  • 8th Grade United States History: Revolution through Reconstruction
  • 9th Grade United States History: Reconstruction through Today
  • High School Civics
  • High School World History

Open Textbooks in Action

Open Textbook Projects

Find Open Textbooks

Quality models--What you need to know about: Open Stax

Open Stax is the current platform hosting the Connexions e-textbook and course repository with the textbooks developed in the Open Stax project. The content in OpenStax comes in two formats: modules, which are like small "knowledge chunks," and collections, which are groups of modules structured into books or course notes, or for other uses. All content is licensed CC BY so they can be continually edited, translated, and adapted.

Recommendation: A variety of free, quality, peer-reviewed and edited open textbooks and supplemental resources--highly recommended.

Other e-Textbook Models (that look open, but they are not)

A whole new vocabulary is springing up around open. Much of this relates to publishers incorporating open resources into their products, which do not reflect the 5R's of truly open resources, and are fee-based products. Here's some of the variants to watch for:

Openwashing: n., having an appearance of open-source and open-licensing for marketing purposes, while continuing proprietary practices. (Audrey Watters) 

Openwrapping: n.,  charging for services and support provided around the content, usually as a "per student" fee or course fee, which is not optional for students.

What you need to know about: Academic Pub

Academic Pub is fee based. It does allow you to compile an online textbook that can contain both your own content and fee-based content. It also allows you to make your content available for use in compiled textbooks, and for you to receive royalties, based on the fee you set, for the use of your content by others.

Don't pay for what the library system can offer you for free! AcademicPub will tell you they can provide content (for a fee) from The American Institute of Physics, Cambridge University Press, EBSCO, Harvard Business Publishing, and Springer, but these resources can be directly linked in your course site, or even an Academic Pub online textbook, at no cost to the students.

The library system has thousand's of articles, book chapters and more available from these and other publishers, which you can link directly to in your Blackboard course site. Don't make your students pay for content we already have. Contact your liaison librarian for assistance in compiling a list of permalinks to your course readings, so students can access these materials for free.

Pros: Combines original and published content, method of making your own content available for fee

Cons: Charges for much of the same published content available through the Wayne State libraries for free to students, faculty and staff

Recommendation:  Do not use as a textbook platform unless you have checked with library first to make sure you are not using content we already have. Use to make your own content available to others for a royalty fee.

What you need to know about: Textbook Publishers (Pearson, Cengage, McGraw Hill)

Pearson, a major textbook publisher, provides a platform called Pearson Collections. It allows instructors to create e-textbooks using open-access content and Pearson material.

Pro's:  You have control of the content, and can put it together in a way that makes sense for your course.

Con's: Charges for much of the same published content available through the Wayne State libraries for free to students, faculty and staff. Your students may be paying for content that is already available through the Wayne State library system, or freely available on on the web.

Cengage, a major textbook publisher, launched a product called OpenNow in October 2017. It is designed to "help higher education institutions and instructors easily access and use OER by delivering curriculum-aligned OER content on an intuitive, outcomes-based platform." Costs start at $25 per student per course.

Pro's: Put together the resources for you.

Con's: Charges for resources that are available freely as OER. Duplicates an LMS platform (which WSU already has in CANVAS) and  the curation and course design services that could be provided to you by your WSU subject specialist librarians and OTL for free.

McGraw-Hill Education 

macmillan learning (Intellus Open Courses)

Intellus Open Courses is an Openwrapping product. The current fee (2018) is $14.99 per student per course. Intellus is a platform that uses Open ebooks and copyright free primary source materials, along with analytics, test banks, Powerpoint slides and iclicker questions to support the course. Courses offerings are mainly focused on lower level undergraduate general education. 

Pro's: Courses are put together for you, can be uploaded into Canvas.

Con's:Charges for resources that are freely available as OER, library resources provided are already paid for and available through the library system, unclear about how student data collected through their analytics is retained and used by macmillan.

Try Instead: Open Stax free pre-designed courses available through the Canvas Commons.