Learn how the author adapted an Open Educational Resource (OER) textbook for a course, including the unexpected benefits he discovered.

When you get the news from your department that a course you teach is switching textbooks, the first question that likely pops into your head is “Why?” If the answer is that the new textbook will save students upwards of $144,000 for the academic year by using Open Educational Resources (OER) you understand the reason and are sure your students will appreciate the savings. But now, you begin to worry about the quality of the OER textbook because being free does not mean it’s necessarily good.

This happened to me when teaching a course for the Ball State Information Systems and Operations Management (ISOM) department. My first glance at the Introduction to Business Textbook from OpenStax reassured me that the new textbook was free and still a quality product for my students and me as the instructor. Another confidence boost came when I saw Rice University curated the materials found on the OpenStax website and it was not a fly-by-night operation.

Benefits of OER for You and the Students

A tremendous advantage that I discovered about the OER textbook was that students could access all the materials on Day 1. No need for the student to wait for financial aid or personal money to purchase a book and code. All students would have to do was open the course in Canvas, and they would have immediate access to the textbook materials via a link to OpenStax, or they could download a PDF. They could even purchase a copy of the textbook for $48.50, which is still a $90 savings over the previous textbook. 

No question—an OER resource will save students money, but how does this impact the course and the faculty member, and will it involve a complete course overhaul? OpenStax helped me get started by providing access to:  

  • A Canvas course that can be imported 
  • 5-10 openly licensed videos for each chapter   
  • OER Commons Hub resources   
  • Instructor getting started guide   
  • Enhanced lecture PowerPoint slides with videos   
  • Instructor’s manual   
  • Test banks   
  • Diversity and representation development guidelines   

I had to make new tests, re-record video overviews of chapters, and reformat some assignments. It was time-consuming but also a relief to know my students had the materials on the first day and wouldn’t have to worry about a lack of funds.

We Can Help with OER Implementation

If you decide, or are mentored to use OER resources, the Teaching Innovation Team within the Division of Online and Strategic Learning (DOSL) can suggest resources to curate your own OER resources and then help you to:  

  • Import a Course Cartridge 
  • Import a Question Bank(s)
  • Use Canvas Commons to find sources
  • Insert an image from your OER collection or Unsplash within Canvas
  • Use backward design for course design
  • Apply principles that correlate with Universal Design for Learning and accessibility standards

I also encourage you to check out the Library’s guide to Open Educational Resources, which includes several good starting points for your OER journey.

How could you incorporate Open Educational Resources into your course design? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • Dan Jones

    Dan joined the Division of Online and Strategic Learning (DOSL) in 2015 after spending 15 years teaching Information Systems and Operations Management (ISOM) courses in the Ball State Prison Program. During his time with DOSL, Dan has assisted faculty in developing over 150 online courses. As an enthusiast of learning and a Ball State alum, Dan is dedicated to working with faculty to develop and enhance their development of course materials in Canvas to improve student learning and retention. Dan continues to plan an active role in teaching by serving as an adjunct in the ISOM department.