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Open Educational Resources (OER)

a guide for instructors and faculty to learn more about Open Education Resources, where to find them, how to use them, and how to create them

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the quality of open textbooks?

There is essentially no difference in the faculty vetting process carried out for open textbooks, compared to commercially published textbooks. As with all textbooks, open textbooks vary in quality. Faculty selection of open textbooks, (as in the selection of commercial textbooks) is often a collaborative process driven by departmental faculty. Quality of a particular open textbook can be determined in several ways: 1) recommendations by faculty who have used the open textbook, 2) vetting by faculty reviewers, and 3) faculty use of review guidelines created to standardize the open textbook review process. For more information on reviewing open textbooks and other OER, plus a recommended rubric, please visit INSERT A LINK HERE FOR RUBRIC

How can my students get a copy of the open textbook that I adopt?

Most open textbooks are available for viewing on a computer via the Internet or as a document that can be downloaded for off line viewing or printing by students. Faculty can provide their students with the webpage address where students can access the open textbook.  Alternatively, you may be able to work with the Gavilan Bookstore to provide printed copies of the open textbook for sale.

What will my students think about using an open textbook?

Students traditionally have a fair amount of discretion in using textbooks that are assigned to them by faculty; open textbooks do not change that equation.  Open textbooks can provide the same quality and variety of content as commercially available textbooks, with the additional advantage that open textbooks will be more easily customized by faculty (to meet localized education needs), more accessible to people with disabilities, and available for sale to students for significantly less cost (free, or as low cost print versions) than commercially published textbooks.

Use of an open textbook for course readings may also lead students to think that you are concerned with the financial burden of higher education. 

Will my course transfer to other colleges and universities if I use an open textbook?

Articulation agreements between community colleges and universities generally do not include specific requirements about textbooks except to specify that the title or samples of the textbook should be included in the course outline. 

How will the adoption of open textbooks impact faculty authors of textbooks that are for sale?

Overall, introduction of open textbooks can create more opportunity for faculty who wish to publish commercial material, because faculty who wish to write commercial (for sale) material will be able to leverage open content by providing commercial (for sale) addendums to that open content.

For traditional textbooks sold at a reasonable price, adoption of open textbooks will likely have a limited impact.  However, if you can buy a printed version of an open textbook for $20 when the equivalent commercial version sells for $120, it is more likely that sales of the commercial textbook will be affected.

How will the adoption of open textbooks impact my campus bookstore?

Campus bookstores can profit from obtaining print copies of open textbooks and selling them just as they do for of publishers’ textbooks but only if the open access copyright allows commercialization. 

What are the disadvantages to using OER?

Some disadvantages of OER include:

  • Quality of available OER materials is inconsistent. However, this is also true of commercial textbooks, which vary widely in quality. As the number of open textbooks increases, there will be a concomitant increase in overall quality.

  • Materials may not meet Section 508 ADA accessibility requirements and must be modified to bring into compliance. In fact, this is true of many commercial textbooks. Open textbooks will ultimately meet and exceed Section ADA accessibility requirements, as currently fulfilled on commercially available textbooks.

  • Faculty need to check for accuracy of content of open content, just as they do with commercially available content.

  • Customization may be necessary to match departmental and/or college curriculum requirements. However, customization of content will ultimately be more flexible in open content than it currently is in commercially available content.

  • Technical requirements to access the content vary. Interoperability standards that permit transportability across many technology platforms are now in the making.

Not seeing your question answered here? Try Creative Commons FAQ

How can I get help with my OER question that wasn't answered here?

For additional help, contact the Gavilan Library at 408-848-4806, or librarian Hannah Clement at

This text is a derivative work of the CCCOER FAQ on Open Textbooks, which is licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License.