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Open Educational Resources (OER): Tools for Affordable Learning

This guide describes high-quality educational resources that can be used to decrease material costs for courses at WSU and in higher education more broadly.

Open Textbooks Defined

Open textbooks can be defined as "textbooks that have been funded, published, and licensed to be freely used, adapted, and distributed." Typically open textbooks are available as a pdf, epub, or set of html pages that are available at no cost to students and instructors.

True open textbooks are licensed so that they can be freely printed, distributed, and even adapted with correct attribution. Vendors like Amazon and Lulu may be able to provide print copies of open texts, and they can be printed locally as well.

Open Textbooks at WSU Libraries

Anyone can always access digital copies of open textbooks for free. However, if you would prefer to read these texts in print, one option is to check a copy out from WSU Libraries. See this list of available print OER options, or print your own copy using a copy shop or service like Lulu.

Open Textbook Library

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Open Textbook Library (OTL) is an initiative by the University of Minnesota intended to help faculty members quickly find and assess open textbooks in use at other institutions of higher education  The library has collected dozens of open textbooks that are currently in use at higher educational institutions or affiliated with a higher education institution, scholarly society, or professional organization. OTL also invites faculty reviews of the textbooks in the library.

OpenStax Textbooks

 Image shows examples of OpenStax textbooks   Image shows a sampling of OpenStax textbooks    Image shows a sampling of OpenStax textbooks






If you're looking for OER that are packaged for use, OpenStax by Rice University is a good place to start. OpenStax specializes in creating materials for general education courses like Biology 101, Introduction to Sociology, and Calculus I-III. All textbooks have been peer-reviewed and vetted by the higher education community.

These books are openly licensed, meaning that you as an instructor can modify a book for your own course, if you so choose. Modifications, like added text, links, and videos, will show in a version that you create specifically for your class. OpenStax updates their textbooks over time and pairs each book with lists of added resources like slides and exercises that you can use in class. Some of these added resources are free while others are available for a fee.

BCcampus Open Textbooks

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The BCcampus Open Textbook Project is an initiative in British Columbia that intends to provide open textbooks for the largest courses in the province. The BCcampus library includes textbooks developed by Canadian authors as well as other texts that have been borrowed for use by instructors in British Columbia. The library is strong in general education courses but also includes options for a number of skills and trades. Faculty reviews and ancillary resources are available for some textbooks - look for links that help you locate these in the library.

Open SUNY Textbooks

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The Open SUNY Textbooks project provides funding and support to faculty members in the State University of New York who wish to publish open textbooks. Over a dozen textbooks have been published to date with more forthcoming.

OER Commons Open Textbooks

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OER Commons allows you to search for open educational resources in a variety of types, educational levels, and subject areas. Try the Advanced Search option to locate textbooks released for college-level courses--or look for other materials to supplement texts. While you're in OER Commons, you may also want to take a look at its partnership with OpenStax to curate materials around general education courses. Consider joining a group if you would like to be involved. 

MERLOT Open Textbooks

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MERLOT is a program of the California State University system that invites educators to share and review OER on the MERLOT website. Items submitted to MERLOT are vetted by teams of peer reviewers with subject-area expertise. Materials on the site range widely from simulations, class activities, and media to case studies, open journal articles, and open textbooks.

Teaching Commons Open Textbooks

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Teaching Commons pulls together OER published at a number of colleges and universities including Portland State University, University of Massachusetts, University of Pennsylvania, University of South Florida, the City University of New York, and Utah State University. To find open textbooks, select "textbooks" under "types of works."


Screenshot of books published by Luminos

Luminos by the University of California Press publishes a series of open access books that can be used by students at no cost.

Lumen Learning Catalog for WSU

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This catalog of core WSU courses was created by Lumen Learning, an organization that assists institutions of higher education in identifying quality low-cost course materials for inclusion in classes. For an additional fee, Lumen can provide a package of services that allows faculty to quickly spin up an integrated set of assessments and services around these materials, similar to access codes provided by publishers.

Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) Ebooks

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The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) is a non-profit consortium of law schools, law libraries and related organizations with a mission to "conduct applied research and development in the area of computer-mediated legal education and creates tools that increase access to justice." Its publishing arm, eLangdell Press, publishes open and free casebooks on a range of legal topics relevant to first-year students. 

Project Gutenberg

Image shows examples of texts in Project Gutenberg

Most books in Project Gutenberg are not protected by copyright, so this is generally a place to check for older publications. Most books are in the public domain.

Purdue ePubs


Purdue University Press is making available some of its older publications via Purdue e-Pubs. Books currently date from 1973 to 2006 and are freely accessible for non-commercial purposes.

UC Press E-Books Collection

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UC Press E-Books Collection, 1982-2004, includes almost 2,000 books from academic presses on a range of topics, including art, science, history, music, religion, and fiction.

University of Pittsburgh Digital Editions

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Pitt Press has selected these digital editions for open access, including titles from the Pitt Latin American Series, Pitt Series in Russian and East European Studies, and Composition, Literacy and Culture. The majority of these titles are out-of-print, but are now available online.

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