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Converting to a Low-Cost or No-Cost Course

Mon Apr 4, 2022 at 07:30 AM

During Open Education week in March, Oakland University Provost Britt Rios-Ellis encouraged faculty to use affordable and OER course materials where content is available. Open Educational Resources (OER) are peer-reviewed, openly licensed, free textbooks and course materials made available from a variety of respected publishers. Open materials allow for the content to be edited, changed, and updated to ensure it more closely matches the course learning objectives, current student needs and reflects the diverse perspectives, cultures, and communities of the students.

OER removes price barriers, saving students money and making it possible for everyone to have their own copy of required course materials from the first day of class. OER is an important tool for diversity, equity, and inclusion, reducing financial barriers to give traditionally underserved students equal access to high-quality learning materials. And OER is just the first step: one piece of open educational practices that can give students more agency involves allowing them to write and revise the texts to tell stories, share facts, and explore questions ignored in traditional texts. As Rajiv Jhangiani (2019) said in a recent keynote, “It's not only about access to knowledge. It's about access to knowledge creation.”

Faculty who teach courses with material costs at $40 or less can now have their courses marked in Banner with a low-cost or no-cost designation by completing the Affordable Course Materials Section Request form.

Transitioning a course to affordable materials can take several paths. Faculty can choose to pull together a reading list or utilize an ebook from OU Libraries collection to replace purchased textbooks. Or, after searching for and reviewing available OER, faculty can adopt or adapt a current resource for their course.

Tips for Converting to a Low or No-Cost Course

  1. When possible, consider using open textbooks, free or low-cost substitutes for high-priced textbooks.
  2. Ensure that the textbooks and materials required on the syllabus are necessary for success in the course.
  3. When using commercial textbooks, investigate options for getting the best price for selections. Start by contacting the OU Bookstore, as they are our partners in helping to reduce costs for students. 
  4. Always submit your textbook choices to the OU Bookstore as early as possible to ensure the availability of all formats and price ranges and to notify students of your selection. *This is important even if you are not using a textbook or using OER and required under Federal law. 
  5. Mark your course in Banner as low or no-cost as soon as you have chosen your materials and inform your students about how they will get access to required materials. 
  6. If you are not finding anything or need additional help, ask for library liaison for assistance.

Want to learn more about using affordable and open resources in your classes and meet other faculty using open textbooks and OER? View the Affordable Course Materials Initiative webpage and Open Education Resources guide.

References and Resources 

Achieving the Dream (Oct. 10, 2018). “New study reveals that OER courses and degrees benefit student retention and completion, improve faculty engagement, and result in cost savings for students.” 

Colvard, N. B., Watson, C. E., & Park, H. (2018). “The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30(2), 262-276. 

Hilton, J. “Open educational resources, student efficacy, and user perceptions: a synthesis of research published between 2015 and 2018.” Education Tech Research Dev (2019). 

Jhangiani, Rajiv. (2019, April) “Beyond free: A social justice vision for open education.” ACRL Conference Proceedings. Cleveland. Retrieved from:

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About the Author

Julia E. Rodriguez is the Health Sciences & Scholarly Communications Librarian at Kresge Library.  She is the team leader for the campus-wide Affordable Course Materials Initiative. She was a SPARC OER Leadership Fellow in 2018-19 and tweets about OER and open education @JujuRLib

Others may share and adapt under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC.

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