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OER & Textbook Affordability Initiatives:
an Introduction

Note:  this document was originally assembled as background and reference materials for a University Academic Senate Task Force on Open Educational Resources and Affordable Course Materials, at Grand Valley State University (Allendale, Michigan).  

It was compiled by Janelle Yahne, Jackie Rander, and Matt Ruen (University Libraries), and was originally intended to be illustrative, rather than exhaustive. The document focuses most  on the Michigan context.  

This version of the document is made available for edits, additions, and comments from anyone involved with OER. Click here to view in the Google Docs editing interface. (To the extent that any of the original annotations are copyrightable, they are released with a CC Attribution - Noncommercial license.)  

1.  Models of OER and Textbook Affordability Initiatives        2

General Resources        2

Model Programs:        2

California State University        2

Dartmouth College        2

Ferris State University        3

Kansas State University        3

Maricopa Community Colleges        3

Miami University        3

Minnesota State Colleges & Universities - Central Lakes College        4

Oregon State University        4

OhioLink        4

Penn State        4

Portland State University        4

Rutgers University        5

The State University of New York (SUNY)        5

Temple University        5

Texas A&M        5

Texas Woman’s University        6

Tidewater Community College        6

University of Alberta        6

University of Arkansas        6

University of Arkansas – Little Rock        7

University at Buffalo (SUNY)        7

University of British Columbia        7

University of California – Los Angeles        7

University of Houston        8

University of Minnesota        8

University of Oklahoma        8

University of Saskatchewan Medical University        8

University System of Georgia / Affordable Learning Georgia        8

Virginia Tech        9

2.  Relevant Organizations        9

Organizational Partnership Initiatives        9

OpenStax        9

Open Textbook Network        9

Rebus Foundation & Rebus Community        10

SPARC Open Education Leadership Program        10

Nonprofit & Higher Education Organizations        10

Service Providers & Commercial Initiatives        10

3.  Conferences & Professional Development        11

4.  Government Policies on OER and Affordability        11

5.  Issues Related to OER & Affordability        12

Inclusive Access (or Mandatory Purchase) Programs        12

Sustainability        12

Open Pedagogy        12

Textbook Costs & OER Savings        12

6. Additional Selected Readings        13

OER on OER (and Affordable Content)        13

Community Resources        13

Press        14

Blogs & Commentary        14

Reports        14

Selected Scholarly Literature        15

1.  Models of OER and Textbook Affordability Initiatives

Note: this list features examples of OER and affordability programs which demonstrate a range of different approaches, goals, and scales.  It is not exhaustive.

General Resources

Model Programs:

California State University

Dartmouth College

Ferris State University

Kansas State University

Maricopa Community Colleges

Minnesota State Colleges & Universities - Central Lakes College

Oregon State University


Pennsylvania State University

Portland State University

Rutgers University

The State University of New York (SUNY)

Temple University

Texas A&M

Texas Woman’s University

Tidewater Community College

University of Alberta

University of Arkansas

University at Buffalo (SUNY)

University of British Columbia

University of California – Los Angeles

University of Houston

University of Minnesota

University of Oklahoma

University of Saskatchewan

University System of Georgia / Affordable Learning Georgia

Virginia Tech

2.  Relevant Organizations

Organizational Partnership Initiatives


Open Textbook Network

Rebus Foundation & Rebus Community

SPARC Open Education Leadership Program

Nonprofit & Higher Education Organizations

Service Providers & Commercial Initiatives

See also:  Inclusive Access (or Mandatory Purchase) Programs

3.  Conferences & Professional Development

These events frequently include sessions or tracks on OER, and some are entirely dedicated to OER.  Many professional and disciplinary conferences also discuss OER and textbook affordability.

4.  Government Policies on OER and Affordability

SPARC is tracking state-level policies on OER, a growing trend.  Many involve grant funding or mandatory OER marking in online course catalogs. Some establish or expand state-wide educational consortia to work on OER.  In Michigan, the 2018 educational appropriations act directed Michigan Virtual University to support OER creation, but this appears primarily focused on K-12 OER.

SPARC also has excellent background information on the new federal-level Open Textbook Grant pilot program, which is aimed at large consortial efforts in collaboration with workforce partners. There are significant critiques of the way this pilot has been implemented, but the program’s existence is a major victory. It is quite possible that an improved version of the 2018 grant will be part of the next federal appropriations bill.

5.  Issues Related to OER & Affordability

Inclusive Access (or Mandatory Purchase) Programs

Many commercial publishers are beginning to offer what they call “inclusive access” programs, and what critics have described as “mandatory purchase” programs.  The basic idea is that the publisher works directly with the university and/or bookstore to integrate with an existing student fee system.  Students in a course using an “inclusive access” resource pay the fee along with tuition and other student fees.  This approach can be easier to handle via student loans, and which guarantees that every registered student has online access from the beginning of a course to the end.  Currently, these programs are significantly less expensive than traditional textbook purchasing, because publishers are able to guarantee that every student pays for online access.

Critiques of this model center on the loss of agency for students, challenging opt-out processes, the temporary nature of the course materials, and the possibility of higher prices once a course or institution is an established customer. After all, traditional print textbooks used to be a lot more affordable, too.  


The CARE Framework describes 4 principles of good stewardship by OER programs (contribute, attribute, release, empower) for a sustainable open education ecosystem.

Open Pedagogy

The Open Pedagogy Notebook – a community and collection of resources for educators exploring what can be done with OER and open approaches to teaching.

Textbook Costs & OER Savings

How much does one OER adoption really save?

A lot of discussions about OER use a rough metric of $100 saved per student in a course that adopts OER, an estimate popularized by OpenStax. Calculating a useful universal metric is a messy and imprecise task, since many students report not buying a required text, many share with a friend, others buy used or rent from a variety of services.


6. Additional Selected Readings

OER on OER (and Affordable Content)

Community Resources


Blogs & Commentary


Selected Scholarly Literature

Copyrightable elements of this work are released under a CC Attribution - Noncommercial license. Please credit either “Grand Valley State University Libraries” or “Janelle Yahne, Jackie Rander, and Matt Ruen, Grand Valley State University Libraries.”