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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

Find Open Textbooks

Open Textbooks in Action

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.

Inclusive Access and First Day Programs

Inclusive Access (also called First Day) programs are publisher programs that provide access to textbooks and/or courseware directly through the LMS (at WSU, that is Canvas) at a discounted price. Students are directly billed for access through their student accounts. They are sometimes called First Day programs because students have access to textbooks and courseware on the First Day of class.

There are many pro's and con's of these programs.

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 Subject Specialist 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. Content is limited to Pearson Collections and your own materials.  The first 50 pages of your own additional material is included at no additional charge.

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

Con's: Can only upload up to 50 pages of your own material (study guides, powerpoints, etc.) for free. Selection is limited to Pearson published resources.

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 $30 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 Custom Courseware Solutions a major textbook publisher, has a personalized learning adaptive learning platform that allows you to add your own unique materials, OER, or select from the library of McGraw Hill content.

Benefits: Can select from a variety of content.

Drawbacks: Duplicates an LMS platform (which WSU already has in CANVAS. The selection of published materials is limited to McGraw HIll materials.