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Albert S. Cook Library

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Why Should I Use OER?

There are many benefits to using OER:

  1. OER allow revising and remixing of content so that faculty can teach exactly what they want to teach and how they want to teach it.
  2. OER remove 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. No more waiting for delayed orders to arrive at the campus bookstore!
  3. Several studies show that students and faculty who have used OER before believe that they are as good or better than commercial textbooks. 

A Review of the Effectiveness & Perceptions of Open Education Resources as Compared to Textbooks

This video summarizes the available research synthesized in: Hilton, J. (2016) "Open education resources and college textbook choices: A review of research on efficacy and perceptions." Education Tech Research and Development, 64(4), 573-590.

See also the section titled Research on OER on our Further Reading page.

Textbook Affordability

While OER are more than just open textbooks, faculty who choose to use OER in place of a commercial textbook can save students significant expense. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that from 2006 to 2016, the cost of textbooks increased 88%. Towson University estimates that full-time undergraduates will spend $1060 on textbooks during the 2017-2018 school year.

A survey released in 2014 by Maryland PIRG and the Student Government Association at the University of Maryland showed that 65% of students had opted out of buying a required college textbook due to its high price. Nearly half of the survey respondents also said the cost of textbooks impacted how many and which classes they took each semester. The increasingly high cost of textbooks has also been recognized by the Maryland General Assembly, which passed the College Textbook Competition and Affordability Act of 2009 and the Textbook Cost Savings Act of 2017.

The Maryland Open Source Textbook (M.O.S.T.) initiative, led by the University System of Maryland’s William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation, supports the use of OER in place of textbooks by offering mini-grants to system faculty who plan to adopt OER. For more information on these grants, visit

Efforts undertaken in Maryland and other states to use OER to solve textbook affordability issues are described in the OER State Policy Playbook. Legislation supporting OER has also been introduced in the U.S. Congress.

TU Faculty Testimony

Professor Patricia Rice Doran Image"Using an OER allowed me to focus on what students really needed to learn, rather than feeling obligated to cover something just because it was in a text they had already purchased. Students appreciated having an option that saved them money, and as a result, they were very invested in the OER-based readings and assignments."

Patricia Rice Dorian
Associate Professor
Department of Special Education


Professor James Manley Image"Ready to get off the treadmill of trivial textbook updates that cost your students collectively thousands of dollars? OER materials are just fine as support materials if you're taking the lead on how you want the material presented. If you're looking for use with online homework systems they may not work, but the quality is solid and the price can't be beat. Not to mention the stipend you can receive through the Maryland Open Source Textbook initiative for saving your students all that money."

James Manley
Associate Professor
Department of Economics


Yongchen Zhao Image"I use an open access textbook for my introductory macroeconomics course. OER benefit my students in many ways. Not being limited by cost to one single proprietary textbook means I could adopt high quality course materials from multiple sources, which I edit and mix into one closely integrated set of learning modules. My course is therefore further improved, allowing students to achieve better learning outcomes."

Yongchen Zhao
Assistant Professor
Department of Economics


Professor Angel Kumchev Image“One thing about OER that I find particularly useful is that it allows the instructor to edit the content and to tailor it exactly to the class she wants to teach. Of course, one can always achieve the same effect by putting together a course packet, but it is so much more efficient to borrow the textbook someone else has written and edit/rearrange a few sections to the same effect. And since open source materials tend to be in the public domain, the textbook cost to the student is $0.00.”

Angel Kumchev
Department of Mathematics