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"Mother" LibGuide: Open Textbooks & Free e-books

A master LibGuide containing links for almost all other libguide content.

What are OER? And Open Textbooks?

OER stands for Open Educational Resources, and is a term that refers to any educational resources that are typically:

  1. Free to access online
  2. Low cost to get a print copy
  3. Licensed by the author/creator with rights that are less restrictive than copyright (i.e. all rights reserved). This license typically (though not always) includes the right of any user to copy (digitally) & print the text as well as the right to adapt it as desired for use in a course, as long as authorship is attributed and use is non-commercial.

Open Textbook is a specific type of OER that is designed to be a free or low cost substitute for a traditional textbook.

Getting Started

Adopting OER or an Open Textbook for your course can be approached in a number of different ways. However there is a basic process that can serve as a guide as you get started. (To download or print this process as a worksheet, here is a Google Doc you can use.)

1. Define your need: Do you want to piece together a variety of resources, or find a whole textbook replacement? Using a backwards design approach and working from your course learning objectives can be a great way to keep your search organized and on track.

2. Search: This step is often messy and may feel never-ending! However it is the nature of the process that different resources search differently, are indexed differently, and index different content. So try several different sources (we have many indexed under the "Finding OER" tab), and keep track of the search terms you've tried and the sites you've searched. **Also, don't forget to consult your discipline colleagues and information experts like your Kirkwood librarians for help.**

3. Identify & Evaluate: There are many considerations when evaluating OER, some the same as where adopting a traditional textbook, some unique to OER.

  • Peer review of material available
  • Reputation of author or institution
  • Pedagogical approach
  • Accuracy of content
  • Alignment with course objectives or learning outcomes
  • Appropriate reading level (see https://readable.io/text/)
  • Technical quality (clear visuals, production value)
  • Clear licensing declaration: Creative Commons license, public domain, or your own fair use determination for copyrighted works. **This might be a good time to create an attribution statement as your decide on resources you know you'll want to use. Try this attribution builder from Open Washington.**

4. Adoption: There are often multiple stakeholders in your choice of course materials, including your discipline colleagues, your dean, and the bookstore. In fact, this could be step one, because these are the same people who could potentially be great allies in your changeover to open resources.

5. Use: How will students access and use these resources? Will you post a link to materials in your LMS (Talon)? Will students need paper copies, such as for a lab book or readings to be used in class? There are many options for having materials printed, and Kirkwood's Bookstore is a great resource for discussing your options. Because of the open licensing of OER, the Bookstore can often have a whole book printed for students at a very low cost. 

Additional resources for new OER adopters:

OER FAQs

Q: It's nice to save students money, but my students truly need print books. Doesn't that mean I need to stick with traditional textbook publishers?

A: There is always a print option for OER. Sometimes the OER platform itself will offer a printed and bound textbook which can be ordered directly from the website, or purchase can be brokered through the Kirkwood Bookstore, as a traditional textbook would be. Because students are mostly only paying for the actual print and distribution costs, the price of the printed OER will still be substantially lower than that of a traditional textbook.

If a printed copy isn't available, or if you are using your own compilation of OER (and/or some copyrighted materials that you've determined fall under fair use), the Kirkwood Bookstore will work with you to create a course pack for your students to purchase at the Bookstore, again, at a substantially lower cost than a traditional textbook.

Q: I understand that textbooks can be very expensive, but I don't want to take business away from our bookstore. Doesn't the bookstore need us to continue in the way we always have?

A: There are a few different responses to this concern. Using OER doesn't necessarily mean e-book only, and doesn't necessarily mean the bookstore won't have any profits. The open licensing typically means that materials are free online and low-cost to print. This means the bookstore might work with print services to offer a print copy for sale through the bookstore, or it might mean the bookstore works with a publisher of printed and bound OER books to provide copies for sale at a substantially lower price than traditional textbooks. Another way to look at it is that bookstores are changing with technologies as we all do, Kirkwood's EagleTech store being a perfect example of this.

Q: As a faculty I depend on the test banks that publishers provide with a textbook adoption. Do OER or Open Textbooks provide test banks? And if they're open, what's to prevent a student for getting access to them?

A: Many open resources do provide test banks (and power points, and other supplementals we're used to getting from a publisher). To answer the question about "protected resources" we went to Nicole Finkbeiner, Associate Director of Institutional Relations, Rice University's OpenStax College

"In terms of "protected" resources such as test banks, you have to find a way for students to not be able to access these. And, you don't want to openly license these because then you have no way to combat them being published. At Rice University’s OpenStax College, our website is set-up so faculty have to first register for an account and then request faculty access prior to being able to download them. We check every single account to ensure the right official email is used, they are in fact teaching a course where they would need the resources, etc. Sometimes we even call the department chair directly to make sure we should be providing access, so this is definitely a labor-intensive process, but I think it is worth it to protect the resources.

Faculty should also be very careful not to post any protected OER resources in a public environment, such as a website."

Q: I am nervous about letting go of my textbook because I don't know if OER/Open Textbook authors will keep the resources up to date. How can I trust that the resources I select will be kept current and accurate?

A: It's true that adopting open resources in place of a traditionally published textbook involves a change in how you think about your course textbook. Adopting OER involves a feeling of ownership of the course resources that you might not experience with a traditional textbook. Because of the open licensing you are free to update the material as you see fit, as long as it has the appropriate Creative Commons licensing. Due to the open nature of these resources, collaboration with other instructors (within our outside this institution) or with your students to improve the open resources you use is a common occurance, and means the work of updating is spread across many people instead of sitting solely with you. Yes, it's a shift of perspective, but it's an exciting one, full of potential.

Also: there are a growing number of open textbooks that have the kind of publisher services faculty expect, with regular updates, printed and bound copies available for purchase, test banks and other instructor supplementals. See especially OpenStax and BCCampus.

Why would an author give away their work for free if it is high quality? How is this model sustainable?

One misconception about OER is that authors are “giving away” their work, and giving away their ownership of what they’re created. This is a myth for the following reasons:

1. OER authors still retain ownership of their creations. Creative Commons (a form of open licensing) actually gives authors very precise control over how their work may be used and how it should be attributed. In fact OER authors often enjoy more freedom to use, share and adapt their own works than they would under a restrictive license with a publisher.

2. Many OER authors do get paid for their work, they simply don’t receive royalties. Some are paid by their college through a stipend, some are awarded grants through non-profit organizations or government agencies.

 

 

Do you have a question about OER? Please ask!

Sources for Finding Open Textbooks & Other OER

Kirkwood's own T4LT Podcasters have a great 3-part series on resources for locating OER:

  1. T4LT Sharing Resources Part 1
  2. T4LT Sharing Resources Part 2
  3. T4LT Open Educational Resources Part 3

Discipline-Specific OER Sources

Career & Technical Fields

Skills Commons    A growing repository of materials developed by Federal TAACCCT Grant recipient colleges. Some great resources here! Includes these industries: Construction; Educational Services; Health Care & Social Assistance; Administrative & Support Services; Waste Management Services; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Information Technologies; Mining, Quarrying, Oil & Gas Extraction; Repair & Maintenance; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Manufacturing. 

Language Learning

Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning    "The COERLL is one of 15 National Foreign Language Resource Centers funded by the US Department of Education. The overall mission of these federally-funded centers is to improve the teaching and learning of foreign languages by producing resources (materials and best practices) that can be profitably employed in a variety of settings."

Math & Sciences

AMSER: Applied Math and Science Educational Repository    "AMSER is a portal of educational resources and services built specifically for use by those in Community and Technical Colleges but free for anyone to use. AMSER is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of the National Science Digital Library, and is being created by a team of project partners led by Internet Scout."

American Institute of Mathematics: Approved Open Textbooks List    "Open-source or open-access textbooks that have been judged to meet the evaluation criteria set by the AIM editorial board.

Biological Sciences OER: curated list of sources    A collection of open textbooks and other open resources for course in the biological sciences. From OER leader, College of the Canyons.

The Chem Collective    "The ChemCollective is organized by a group of faculty and staff at Carnegie Mellon who are interested in using, assessing, and creating engaging online activities for chemistry education."

 

ChemWiki    "The Dynamic Chemistry e-Textbook"

National Science Digital Library  The National Science Digital Library provides high quality online educational resources for teaching and learning, with current emphasis on the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines

MyOpenMath     MyOpenMath runs on the open source, IMathAS platform, providing free hosted use of this platform in support of free, open textbooks like the ones listed on OpenTextBookStore.com. The intent is to provide classroom use of the platform, without any required cost to students, for schools wanting a managed install of the IMathAS platform, and to provide students self-study opportunities.

OHM (Online Homework Manager) An excellent and low priced alternative to online math homework systems. Based on OpenStax mathematical textbooks. 

Open Textbook Store  "OpenTextBookStore was created by educators frustrated with the time involved in finding adoptable open textbooks, with the hope to make open textbook adoption easier for other faculty. Just to be clear, we are not a publisher. This is just a listing site for publicly available open textbooks, maintained by a teacher. Print copies are made available through third party print-on-demand companies. Many of the courses have course packages available through MyOpenMath.com, which provides free online homework for several open math textbooks." 

Scottsdale (AZ) Community College Math Blog    A list of Open and Sharable Resources and tools utilized by the SCC Math Department 

 

Nursing and Allied Health

HEAL (Health Education Assets Library)    "A digital library of multimedia teaching resources for the health sciences. HEAL provides access to tens of thousands of images, videoclips, animations, presentations, and audio files that support healthcare education."

 

Skills Commons    Open licensed materials developed by grant institution recipients in career training fields, including Health Care.

 

Social Sciences

Noba Project    "Teach and learn psychology for free"

OER-Based Courses

Commercial Sites: "Open" but *NOT* Free

Free and/or Open Books (many in public domain)

Open and/or Free Music, Images, Films & other Media

Resources for Creating & Hosting Your Own Textbook

In addition to the resources below, don't forget that library resources are high quality and either free or already paid for! Content on these LibGuides pages can be embedded or linked to, and electronic resources such as magazine and journal articles may be linked to directly from Talon or your course website. Email library@kirkwood.edu for help with using the following alternatives:

  • Placing content on Talon 
  • Placing videos on Kirkwood Videos on Demand
  • Using e-journal articles at the Library

Helping Students Use Their Digital Textbook

  • Using PDFs in Preview & Using PDFs in Adobe Reader  These YouTube videos show students how to do more than just read PDF documents or print them. Learn how to modify PDF documents to enable annotating and note-taking. 
  • Getting to Know a Digital Textbook  Article written by Dr. Terence Cavanaugh, professor at the Univeristy of North Florida detailing ways to make your open digital textbook more familiar and helpful to students by showing students how they can use free online programs to create their own audio textbooks, create study notes from their text and more.
  • Reading Online  Links to resources for helping students read online.

OER Projects: community colleges

Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) Z-degree

"The Z-Degree is an additional degree pathway towards earning the Associate of Arts Degree. Designed in 8-week online courses (Z-courses) with zero cost for textbooks; you can register for classes offered during five sessions throughout the year." 

Maricopa Community College: Maricopa Millions OER Project

"The goal of the Maricopa Millions project is to radically decrease student costs by offering low cost or no cost options for course materials. Courses designated as "no cost" will have no additional cost to the student beyond fees associated with tuition. These might include OER, licensed online resources purchased by the MCCCD for student access, etc. Courses designated as "low cost" will have required course materials that are under $40. These costs may be associated with copyrights for textbooks, printing of required materials, online homework/quizzing systems, etc.

Northern Virginia Community College: OER-Based General Education Project

"The OER-Based General Education Project is designed to allow any student at NOVA to take one or more courses that utilize free and/or open course materials and content to deliver a high quality learning experience without requiring the purchase of textbooks or other course material. The current OER courses can be taken individually, or the series can be completed as a General Education Certificate. ELI is currently developing a second series of OER courses that will satisfy the requirements for the Associate’s degrees in General Studies and Social Sciences beginning fall 2014."

The Medrano Project from Paradise Valley Community College (Arizona)

A "living textbook" project with high student engagement, development of critical thinking skills, and use of free resources.

Lane Community College Faculty Fellowship Program

"The purpose of this fellowship is to to provide support and opportunities for Lane faculty to use OERs in their courses and save students money by reducing textbook requirements and increasing the number of textbook free courses."

OER Projects: 4 year colleges and universities

Affordable Learning Georgia

"A University System of Georgia (USG) initiative to promote student success by providing affordable textbook alternatives. A one-stop service to help USG faculty and staff identify lower-cost, electronic, free, and open educational resources (OER), building on the cost-effective subscription resources provided by GALILEO and the USG libraries."

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville: OER Pilot Project

"During the Fall 2014 semester, 11 SIUE faculty members and more than 300 SIUE students are participating in a pilot project using Open Educational Resources (OER) in their courses. The goal of this project is to to gauge the feasibility of using OER as no-cost or low-cost alternatives to traditional textbooks."

Florida Memorial University, Oakwood University & Wiley College: Distance Learning Collaboration

"The Universities are forging a new path by tapping into the wealth of high quality open education resources (OER) available today. The Center for Excellence in Distance Learning is working with OER services provider Lumen Learning to tailor online courses to the unique needs of HBCUs and the students they serve."

Temple University's Alternate Textbook Project

"The goal of the Project is to encourage faculty experimentation and innovation in finding new, better and less costly ways to deliver learning materials to their students. Through the Project faculty can receive a funding award to develop an alternate to the traditional textbook. That could be anything from a customized set of instructional content to an existing open textbook. There is no expectation that faculty will author complete open textbooks, but that would certainly qualify as an acceptable project proposal."

OER & Alternative Textbooks: Policies

Affordable Textbooks: A Policy Guide

From the U.S. PIRG (Student Public Interest Research Groups)

Sharing OER Content with Students: Best Practices

One of the great things about OER is the flexibility of formatting due to the open licensing. Content can be reformatted, downloaded, or printed. However, for ease of use by students, these are some general guidelines:

  1. Mix and match content from multiple sources to best suit your learning objectives. 
  2. Embed videos when possible rather than linking out. This means less clicking for students and less confusion in trying to navigate back to Talon or follow the progression of content in a module or lesson.
  3. If using an e-book with a detailed table of contents, provide direct links to specific books sections or chapters. Again, this eases navigation for students.
  4. If using short PDF documents, upload them as files to open in the content frame. This allows students to quickly read the content online from within Talon. However they will also have the option to download for offline reading or printing if they choose.
  5. For longer documents, such as books, either link out to the original and set to open in a new window, or edit into shorter chunks and upload as individual files into Talon. This way students don't need to load a huge file every time they want to study a reading.

OER People & Projects at Kirkwood

OER Support Around the College

There are many faculty and staff at Kirkwood who use OER, support faculty adoption of OER, or have the knowledge and expertise to help with specific issues. Ask one of your colleagues about OER today:

Kate Hess, Library Coordinator, Iowa City Campus

  • Guidance in the process of shifting from traditional course materials to OER
  • Offers KCELT classes on OER adoption
  • Support and assistance in locating and curating OERs for all disciplines
  • Support in navigating questions of copyright, Creative Commons licensing, and fair use

Emily McWorthy, Instructional Designer, Distance Learning

  • Support and assistance in locating and curating OERs for all disciplines
  • Support for integrating and linking OERs and important supplementary/ancillary materials into Talon.

Sue Miller, Access Services Librarian, Library Services

  • Support and assistance in locating and curating OERs for all disciplines

Faculty OER Adoption Program

Kirkwood Community College supports faculty adoption of open resources. Open resources benefit students and faculty by providing course materials at no or low cost, and customize materials to suit the needs of students and faculty. To read more about it see the complete program description.

Kirkwood's OER Blog

To see what your fellow faculty OER adopters are talking about, see our OER @ Kirkwood Faculty Blog.

Existing OER materials at Kirkwood

A great way to get started with OER adoption is to pool your efforts with other faculty teaching the same course or discipline. 

  1. Check out our OER at Kirkwood blog to see what other faculty at Kirkwood are up to.
  2. Contact Emily McWorthy for access to Talon shells with OER materials already loaded or in the works:
    1. Intro to Business (OpenStax)
    2. Intro to Sociology (OpenStax)
    3. Concepts in Biology (OpenStax)
    4. US History (OpenStax)
    5. Intro to Psychology (OpenStax)
    6. Macroeconomics (OpenStax)
    7. Elements of Writing/Comp 1/Comp 2
    8. Art Appreciation/Art History
    9. Anthropology
    10. Business/IT/Management (various)

OEC - Open Education Consortium

Kirkwood Community College is a proud member of the Open Education Consortium!

Resource Files & Worksheets

Other Helpful Resources

Further Reading