OER – Questions and Answers

Academic freedom 

Are you going to force us to use open textbooks?

  • Academic freedom and your expertise as an educator are important. Only you can decide which resources are best for your students.


Are there accessible versions for disabled users?

  • Open content has huge potential to increase accessible content on campus. Unlike traditional materials, it is not locked down and can be adapted and reformatted without extra permission. In addition to accessibility expertise and resources that may be available to all at your own university, OER-related resources such as the BC Campus OER Accessibility Toolkit https://opentextbc.ca/accessibilitytoolkit/ continue to develop.

Accreditation concerns

Will I get in trouble with accreditation bodies for using an open textbook?

  • Accrediting bodies do not typically dictate what course materials an educator must use, but in highly specialized programs (perhaps medicine and law ), there may be special parameters for course materials.


Do open textbooks have supporting/ancillary materials?

  • Some do. Like commercial textbooks, some open textbooks have ancillary materials.


Why aren’t there more local options available?


What about our University bookshop? If we support this effort, won’t they go out of business?

  • Bookshops are already facing many challenges, since students do not purchase commercial textbooks and look for alternate ways to locate the required book. Open textbooks are actually an opportunity for bookstores to get more students to buy through “print on demand” options at reduced cost to commercial equivalents.


If I adopt an open textbook, how do I know that it will be updated for currency?

  • There’s no guarantee that an open textbook will be updated for currency. The good news is that you could make these updates, or collaborate with others on this work, due to the permissions afforded by the open license.

Editing capability

How can I edit these?

  • You will likely need some technical support from the staff at your institution. Who might offer that at your University: the Library, instructional/learning designers, Open Education Librarian
  • Also, the OTN Community published an editing guide: Modifying an Open Textbook

Peer review

Are open textbooks peer reviewed?

  • Yes, in many cases. For example, peer review is part of the publishing process for OpenStax open textbooks.
  • Whether peer review has/hasn’t been part of the publishing process, it’s essential for educators to bring their own expertise to their direct consideration of open textbooks (like all educational materials). The reviews of peer educators, such as the reviews included in the Open Textbook Network, may also be helpful. This textbook has several reviews based on clear criteria.

Print copies

Can students order a print copy?

  • Authors and publishers almost always provide a PDF, so students can print pages as needed. In addition, some universities make arrangements with University bookstores to provide printed copies at cost. Others upload the PDF to an online print-on-demand service and students order copies directly. There are many on-demand online print services (Book Printing Company, for example), or students could print out only the parts they want at home or on campus.


They can’t be that good if they’re free, right?

  • Only you [educator] can tell if a book is good, open or not. Check if a publication has been through a peer review process in the publishing phase (you can usually tell by reading the front matter or preface), or read the reviews attached to publicly available open textbooks such as those from the Open Textbook Network. These have been written by other educators and included in the network, unedited, to consider directly how peers have judged the quality of open textbooks across 10 criteria.

How do I know if a book is “good?”

  • The best way is to review for yourself — the books are free online.

Is the quality the same as other textbooks?

  • There is a growing number of studies that show that students have the same or better learning outcomes when using open textbooks. One source of empirical studies is The Review Project by the Open Education Group at Brigham Young University, which collects empirical research on the impacts of OER adoption. But only you can judge quality for your own course.


Stability – If I adopt an open textbook, how do I know it won’t later disappear?

  • All open textbooks should be available in a portable file format (often several portable file formats). However, the user should save a local copy to be sure to have access.


Student learning – Are students learning using these resources?

  • Numerous case studies have found that student outcomes are as good or better with open content vs. traditional materials. One source of empirical studies is The Review Project by the Open Education Group at Brigham Young University, which collects empirical research on the impacts of OER adoption.


Why textbooks (I don’t use textbooks)?

  • Many educators understand and continue to use commercial textbooks and may find it helpful to learn of alternative options such as open textbooks.
  • Open textbooks are part of the broader universe of open educational resources. The information we share about open textbooks and open licensing will help and encourage you to explore  in all of the formats and variations that may be useful to you.


How do I find the time to adopt an open textbook?

  • It does take time to review a textbook before it is recommended for use. The benefit to educators is that you can review several texts and combine them to deliver a customized resource to your student cohort. The flexibilities for educators outweigh the restrictions imposed by copyright materials.

Where can I find an open textbook for my class?

 Why would I, or any faculty member, give away content for free?

  • No one is asking you to! You can still use open textbooks without writing one. Others are looking for increased exposure for their work and for themselves. Some have also experienced struggles in affording textbooks when they were students and choose to author an OER textbook as a way of helping to address textbook affordability issues in higher education.

Why would I adopt an open textbook?

  • Open textbooks decrease costs for students and increase accessibility to learning. They also allow for continuous improvement because you can edit and improve an open textbook.


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OER Capability Toolkit Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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