Answering Tough OER Questions


Faculty often have many questions about open educational resources (OER) and open textbooks. A few of the most common are located here on this page. Where appropriate, there are resources to support the response. If there is a question you have encountered that hasn't been included here, please comment below!


Question: What is the quality like for open textbooks?

Only you can tell if a book is of quality, whether it is openly licensed or commercial. Textbooks in the Open Textbook Library have been reviewed by faculty for your reference. 

Question: Why would a faculty member give away content for free?

Most authors of open textbooks were paid using grants or incentive programs. Others opted to write an open textbook for increased exposure and impact as a part of the scholarship of teaching and learning, to add content not currently available otherwise, and as a service to their field. 

Question: Is the quality the same as commercial textbooks?

There are a growing number of studies that show that students have the same or better learning outcomes when using open textbooks. Faculty members perceived their students as equally prepared for their course using open textbooks compared to using traditional textbooks (Hilton et al., 2013). A significant portion of faculty members (23%) believed their students performed better when using open textbooks, while a majority (64%) thought that their students showed the same level of performance (Jung et al., 2017; Hilton et al., 2013).


Question: How do I find the time to adopt an open textbook?

Affirm that it takes time. Ask how they normally handle adopting a new textbook, and emphasize similarities. Review the OER Starter Kit to learn more about the steps involved.

Question: Do open textbooks have ancillary materials?

Just like commercial textbooks, some open textbooks have ancillary materials. OpenStax, for example, has many ancillary options for faculty to implement their textbooks in their courses.

Question: Can students order a print copy?

Yes, students can print OER on demand. Efforts are underway to create a centralized printing solution for students. Until then, you can refer students to an online printing service like PrintMe1. Students can upload the PDF file or chapters to the site and receive a print copy in the mail. 

Question: How can I edit them?

eCampus Center utilizes Pressbooks - a WordPress based authoring platform. Pressbooks enables you to compose or edit your book in one place and create multiple file types automatically (EPUB, digital and print PDF, MOBI, and online). Please refer faculty to Amy Vecchione or the new Research and Innovation Consultants for help getting an OER Pressbook set up. 

Alternatively, faculty can download and edit the content using whatever software they would like, depending upon the file types available. 

Question: Won't this hurt our campus bookstore?

The Boise State bookstore has been an active supporter of the campus shift to OER.

Need more help? Try eCampus Center Faculty Development.
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