VITAL Guest Blogger: Jon Bull, Assistant Professor of Library Services and Scholarly Communication Services Librarian

The next academic year is already approaching with many of us submitting textbook orders and developing curricula we will need for the upcoming semester. However, as many of us already know, those textbooks can be expensive for our students.

From the students’ perspective, one of the highest costs of college is textbooks, a cost that continues to climb. From 2003 to 2013, inflation for textbook cost increased 83% while the average rate of inflation increased only 27%. During that same span, 65% of students reported that they did not purchase a textbook due to a high cost.

One solution to this problem may adopting or creating an Open Educational Resource to replace your textbook.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are learning materials available for free and licensed for reuse. They include textbooks, lesson plans, videos, tests, software, and even full courses. OERs can be found, accessed, and used online, but many will also be available in print through a print-on-demand, low cost option.

Many institutions have adopted OERs at various levels, including K-12. Several institutions that have implemented OERs have seen significant cost savings and curricular innovation. Some even report higher student and faculty satisfaction, and not just because of the cost savings.

Last year, the Christopher Center Library launched an OER pilot project for the 2018-19 academic year, collaborating with faculty members in the College of Engineering, the Department of Sociology, and the Department of Psychology. The final results from that pilot project will be available soon, but initial feedback from faculty and students report a significant savings in textbook cost.

There are pros and cons to using an OER in the classroom, just as for traditional textbooks and curricular materials. However, using an OER could both save your students money and allow for such curricular innovations as creating a customized textbook for your class.

If you are interested in replacing your traditional textbook with an OER, several institutions have collections available. If you would like to publish your own curricular material online, the Christopher Center’s Library Services can help you through the process. We can also as well as offer both electronic and print-on-demand options through ValpoScholar.

For more examples of Open Educational Resources, please visit the Christopher Center’s OER Guide ( For questions on either adopting or publishing an OER, please contact me, Jonathan Bull (


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Lindshield, B. and Adhikari, K. (2013). Online and Campus College Students Like Using an Open Educational Resource Instead of a Traditional Textbook. JOLT: Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9 (1). Retrieved from

SPARC. (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) Open Education. Retrieved from

University of Massachusetts – Amherst (2015). Open Education Initiative. Retrieved from

Weir, R. (6 March, 2007). Teaching without Textbooks. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from: