This guide provides a process for selecting textbooks that prioritizes student access and cost. Keeping in mind that the goals for textbook and course materials selection are quality, alignment with learning outcomes, and ongoing access, here are some considerations for using Open Textbooks, Open Educational Resources (OER) and Library digital content. The online course Open Textbooks and OER Training for Instructors provides a more thorough explanation of finding, evaluating, and adopting open and affordable course content.
- Open textbooks are written by subject matter experts, peer reviewed, professionally edited, and digitally distributed as web content.
- Open textbooks are developed and licensed for instructors to freely distribute, revise, and retain versions.
- Content is free for students and available on the first day of class, optimizing student success.
- Students may incur costs for printing.
Open Educational Resources (OER)
- Open educational resources (OER) are high-quality, effective teaching and learning materials that provide no cost or low-cost access for students. Examples of OER content include readings, articles, images, video, audio, simulations. Course design examples include curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, and assessments.
- Content is free for students to use, and open for instructors to distribute, revise, and retain versions.
- Students may incur costs for printing.
Library e-books and digital content
- Books, articles, films and streaming audio that are licensed by the library for student learning and research can be leveraged as course materials.
- Licensed content is subject to Copyright.
- Students may incur some costs for printing.
Open textbooks may not be available for all courses. Traditional textbooks can be adopted in a variety of formats. Each format has unique benefits, but also presents challenges and a range of costs for students.
- Textbooks written by subject matter experts, edited, published, and distributed in print by a for-profit publisher.
- Students own their textbook and can sell back their copy at the end of the semester.
- Contact the Library to put a copy of the text on 2-hour Course Reserve.
- Uses traditional Copyright and a for-profit sales model.
- Prices reflect a high rate of inflation.
- Due to high cost and unmet financial need, students often forgo purchasing required textbooks.
- 60% of students delay purchasing textbooks until their financial aid is available.
Traditional Textbooks, E-books and Rentals
- Some traditional textbooks can be rented in e-book format for a defined term.
- Typically, it is lower cost than purchasing a textbook.
- Students do not own a copy of the text long-term and will not be able to sell back the text.
- E-books cannot be placed on Course Reserve in the library.
Traditional Textbooks, Course Cartridges and Supplementary “Codes”
- To lessen instructor workload, commercial publishers produce supplementary materials, such as quiz questions, and presentation slides, as additional required purchases for students.
- Textbooks manufacture homework and practice exercises provide students with practice opportunities.
- Students have digital access to these materials through the publisher website or Canvas.
- The cost of a “homework code” is above and beyond the cost of the main textbook.
- If learning materials are behind a paywall, students who cannot afford the textbook are at a disadvantage.
- When graded assignments require a purchased homework code, students who cannot afford the code will not be able to complete graded assignments.
Custom course texts through publisher
- Faculty can work with a publisher to create customized print or online textbooks that align with specific course objectives and feature selected chapters, potentially drawn from more than one textbook in a publisher’s catalog.
- Student access to online texts is limited to one semester, 18 months, or other fixed duration, which prevents students from accessing materials in upper-level courses.
- Print copies of custom textbooks are not eligible for buy back.
- Bundled content may already be available to students online through open licenses or library licenses.
- Adopting or recommending an older edition of the selected textbook to reduce costs.
- Past editions are no longer in publication and available in limited quantity, making it difficult for the bookstore to source them.
- Pricing in the online marketplace can increase with demand, undermining the goal of affordability.
- Students may not be able to resell or get buyback credit for past editions.
Inclusive Access/Day One
- Inclusive Access is a program in which publishers’ contract with universities to deliver online textbook access to all students enrolled in a course.
- The cost of the textbook is added to the tuition bill.
- Students who cannot afford the textbook may have limited options for access.
All course material adoptions should be submitted to the eCampus Bookstore so that students know what the course texts will be for their courses. The bookstore collects textbook adoption data for Open Textbooks/OER, Library materials, and traditional textbooks. If the total cost of your course materials is less than $25, ask your departmental course scheduler to assign the no/low-cost attribute to your course section in the Schedule of Classes.
- Open Textbooks and OER Training for Instructors
- UWM Libraries Guide to Open Educational Resources
- UWM Libraries Media and Reserve Services
- Books by eCampus