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Open Educational Resources (OER)

A guide to educational material that are freely available to use, adapt, share, and reuse.

Director of Faculty Programs

Instructional Design Librarian

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Bethany Mickel
Clemons Library
Office 319

Undergraduate Student Success Librarian

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Haley Gillilan
Clemons 403


New! VIVA Course Materials Survey Results Released

In October of 2021, VIVA conducted a Course Materials Survey for Virginia students in higher education. Member institutions, of which UVa is one, participated as a means to seek answers to the two research questions:

  • What is the impact of course material costs on educational equity among Virginia students?
  • What course materials do students find to be most beneficial to their learning?

The number of respondents from UVA was, at 600, the second highest in the state. The largest representation was from those identifying as undergraduates. 

Included below are some selected questions and responses from UVA students. Graphics are provided by the VIVA Course Materials Default Report and used in accordance with distribution permissions. 

Q: About how much did you spend on course materials, whether purchased, leased, or rented, during this semester? A guess is OK.
The figure is a bar chart that has been converted into the following table. All data are approximate.

Amount Spent Respondents (approximate)
$1-$100 57
$101-$200 128
$201-$300 135
$301-$400 82
$401-$500 30
$501-$600 22
$601 or more 18

Q: Have any of the following large decisions been based at all on the cost of course materials? Check all that apply.

The figure is a bar chart that has been converted into the following table. All data are approximate.

Decision Respondents
Selecting a major 60
Selecting a minor 42
Selecting the institution you attend 113
Other 28

Q: If the cost is the same, which format do you prefer for your course materials?

The figure is a bar chart that has been converted into the following table. All data are approximate.

Format Respondents
Print 265
Electronic 115
It depends 200
No preference 19

When asked how the cost of course materials has influenced their educational progress, students replied with varying degrees of concern. Some respresentative responses are included below:

  • I have often had to purchase a book to share with other students in my class, which was inconvenient at times and required extra planning, but was the only financially viable option.
  • On top of the extremely high cost of tuition and other semester fees, paying for course materials is very stressful. My experience as a UVA student would have been considerably better if course materials were cheaper.
  • I've been fortunate enough to be able to afford most of my textbooks or at least find cheap/free versions of them online--problems generally emerge when I have to buy special software/online textbooks to complete a course because I work better with physical textbooks and I have had to drop courses where I'm forced to buy a nonrefundable/expensive online textbook or program to complete the course because its very expensive and I didn't want to commit to the course in that way.
  • It has stressed me out to the point where I have to choose between groceries and buying the book that month. The stress is distracting cause I sit in class and the thought of the books I have to buy comes up. 
  • It's frustrating because as a STEM major, most textbooks are paired with "platforms" where I complete all of my work, making it cost even more. It's inefficient to make students do work on an excess of platforms and buy so many subscriptions. Additionally, most of my classes have online textbooks that require you to pay even more to purely rent the hard copy for the year which is frustrating because all we do is look at a screen.
  • I frequently do not buy required textbooks, because they are so expensive. I would definitely benefit from having a copy of all my required readings, I'm sure my grades would improve, but it's not worth it comparatively with the high cost and infrequency of use. Some classes use their required texts every class, but others require textbooks and only use them a handful of times. Sometimes I run scenarios where a specific assignment from class requires reading from the textbook, but I neglected to get it because it was too expensive or wasn't used enough.
  • It is an added stress to an already stressful time. It is especially frustrating when professors do not even use the book that I paid $250+ to get for the class.
  • I cannot afford the materials that my classmates can. For example, though we all must buy the same textbook, helpful additional resources that the professors recommend (modeling kits, clicker remotes, etc.) are out of my budget. While my peers gain a better understanding due to their financial advantage and thus earn better grades, I am left without these resources. Though labeled as "optional," these materials are allowed during exam periods because they truly help students. I am without this help and hence my progress is stunted. 

Interested in learning more about the results of the VIVA Course Materials Survey? Please contact Judy, Bethany, or Haley.

You may also view the details of UVA's results in full:

Measuring the Impact of Cost of Course Materials at UVA

Walking by your favorite Library in late January 2020, you might have noticed large posters inviting students to document their textbook spending for the semester. This data gathering effort, spearheaded by the Library’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Working Group in partnership with members of the Student Council, collected over 650 responses during the second week of classes and over a two-day tabling activity at Alderman, Clemons, Science and Engineering, Music, and Fine Arts Libraries. Guided by the Library’s vision to contribute to student success and to foster inclusive pedagogy and active learning, the group sought to establish a benchmark for student spending at UVA. Beyond estimating dollar amounts, their goal was to determine impact on student academic success and personal well-being, as well as understanding how students are tackling this challenge. You can view the survey at


How much are UVA students spending?

According to the National Association of College Stores (NACS), on averaged students spent $415 per nine course materials during the 2018-2019 academic year. Participants in the UVA student survey mirror the national average: about 90% report spending under $500 per semester, with almost a third of those surveyed spending $300 or less.  It bears noting that 1st and 2nd years comprised over 64% of responses gathered; 3rd and 4th years accounted for another 31% of participants, and graduate students made up the remaining 6%. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 shutdown halted our efforts to balance this composition and to increase participation of international, graduate, low-income, first-generation, and transfer students.



How are UVA students managing the cost of course materials?

When asked what they have done to manage their spending, over half of respondents opted not to purchase required materials or to use of those available through the Library. Another 20% either registered for a different course, dropped a class, earned a poor grade, or took fewer courses. Two students failed a course. Nearly a quarter resorted to renting, sharing, borrowing, and/or procuring illegal PDFs of their required texts.



How do UVA students feel about these costs?

Many students are grateful for faculty who take measures to reduce costs: uploading materials to Collab; placing books on reserve; providing video lectures or free online resources; allowing older editions. And yet, the cost is viewed largely as excessive, with the strongest complains reserved for pricey online access codes, overlapping subscription services, and materials that are barely referenced during a course.

While cost does not seem to impact academic success as much, personal well-being does take a hit with respondents, strong indication that UVA students are willing to meet educational goals even as their resourcefulness comes with a price:

 “too much; we pay so much tuition already, this really shrunk my grocery budget”

 “There are no resources at this school that helps with this so we are constantly stuck scavenging for deals that take so long to find just to be behind for the first 2 or 3 weeks due to not having the needed books at the time. There needs to be a better way and better resources for low income students that are VISIBLE so we are not left behind like we always are.”

 “[F]irst year when I was taking language and intro courses such as biology, I would say that the cost was extreme, ridiculous, and downright infuriating. I spent hundreds on textbooks because we were told to get new editions, and there were access codes that we needed for online assignments that you cannot resell.”


What is being done at Virginia and UVA?

At the state level, efforts began in 2016, with the GoOpenVA (#GoOpen) initiative, a statewide effort sponsored by the Department of Education and Virginia school divisions that has picked up steam in the past couple years and which seeks to serve as national example of the power and promise of open educational resources. In 2018, Virginia's Legislature approved HB454, requiring the implementation of guidelines for the adoption and use of low-cost and no-cost open educational resources. With the passing of HB2380 in 2019, a next step has been to direct registrars to identify low or no-cost materials in course listings.

At the institutional level, the Provost office reignited the conversation about OER use with a call to faculty, encouraging efforts to identify low/no cost courses. Also highlighted was the Library's important role as partner in helping locate appropriate resources. Aside from individual faculty members who have or currently champion the use of OER, groups working on similar efforts include the Center for Teaching Excellence, Continuing and Executive Education, and the Curry School of Education. The Library plans to collaborate with all of them.

If you are considering including open educational materials among your course requirements, contact your subject liaison at the Library for support.

For further reading on the cost of textbooks, consider the following:

Open 101: An Action Plan for Affordable Textbooks

"Skyrocketing textbook prices for common university courses are adding insult to the burdensome debt students assume to pay for college. This new report investigates those high textbook prices for common courses at schools across the country. Entitled Open 101: an Action Plan for Affordable Textbooks, this report contains recommendations that, if enacted, could save students billions of dollars by ensuring the materials that students buy for their general education classes are free instead."

Opening the Textbook: Educational Resources in Higher Education, 2017

"Responses from over 2,700 U.S. faculty paint both a "Good news" and a "Bad news" picture for the role of open educational resources (OER) in U.S. higher education. The levels of awareness of OER, the licensing tied to it, and overall adoption of OER materials, remains low. Only 10% of faculty reported that they were “Very aware” of open educational resources, with 20% saying that they were “Aware.” Faculty continue to report significant barriers to OER adoption. The most serious issues continue to be the effort needed to find and evaluate suitable material."

2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey-Florida Virtual Campus

"The purpose of the 2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey was to identify: 1. The amount of money that Florida's public college and university students spent on textbooks and course materials during the spring 2016 semester, 2. The frequency with which students buy textbooks that are not used, 3. How students are affected by the cost of textbooks, 4. Which study aids students perceive to be the most beneficial to their learning, 5. Changes in student responses from previous surveys. The results of the survey are sobering, as the findings suggest the high cost of textbook and instructional materials are forcing many Florida higher education students to make decisions that compromise their academic success."

Top 5 Articles About OER 

With an eye towards OER in librarianship, the articles listed--as well as the Zotero database of other articles--is a valuable resource for those considering integrating OER.


"Open educational resources (OER) are freely available, high quality learning materials that can be downloaded, edited, and shared to better serve all students"     

-William & Flora Hewlett Foundation 

OER authors aspire to support the 5 R's of Openness 

1.  Reuse: The right to use the content in a way range of ways, such as in a class, website, study group, or video.

2.  Revise: The right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself.  

3.  Remix: The right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new.

4.  Redistribute: The right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others.

5.  Retain: The right to make, own, and control copies of the content through download, duplication, storage, and management.


Examples of OER include: textbooks, syllabi, course modules, videos, assessment tools, and more. ​OER originates in colleges, universities, libraries, government agencies, publishers, or faculty and other individuals who develop and openly share teaching resources.


Want to learn more? Join our faculty workshops!

Fall 2022 workshops will be added soon.

In the meantime, check out our recorded webinars on a variety of OER topics (captions are in the process of being added)






Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License LogoThis guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC-BY-NC 4.0). The guide, originally curated by Bethany Mickel and then Hanni Nabahe, is now updated and maintained by Judith Thomas.

Efforts by UVA Faculty

Introduction to Text Analysis provides a brief introduction to digital text analysis through a series of three-part units. Each unit introduces students to a concept, a tool for or method of digital text analysis, and a series of exercises for practicing the new skills. In some cases, studies of particular projects are presented instead of tools in the third section of each unit.

The Open Anthology of Literature in English, an anthology in progress of literature in English, is designed to be a transatlantic anthology, with examples of texts written in the British Isles, but also colonial America, wand the United States. Many of the texts have been freshly edited and annotated to provide authoritative and curated editions for the use of students and general readers, and to create an alternative to expensive print anthologies.

Open Greek and Latin Project aims at providing at least one version for all Greek and Latin sources produced during antiquity (through c. 600 CE) and a growing collection from the vast body of post-classical Greek and Latin that still survives.

The Public Domain Song Anthology is a collection of 348 songs, all in the public domain, which allows the material to be studied, performed, adapted, and shared without constraint. The PDSA is available as a digital download and the songs are available individually in PDF, XML, and Sibelius formats.

Coursera for UVA gives university students, staff and faculty free access to UVA's content on Coursera, taught by UVA faculty and instructors based on their on-campus courses and scholarly work.  They are developed at the University using best practices in online course design to create engaging, effective learning experiences. Courses are available online and can be accessed anytime and anywhere. Download the Coursera app for Android or iOS to download materials and take courses with you on your mobile device.  Login to this service with your NetBadge credentials using your Virginia email address.  


Open Textbooks by Current and Former UVA Faculty

General Chemistry: Principles, Patterns, and Applications. Authors: Bruce Averill and Patricia Eldredge


Open Textbooks Reviewed by UVA Faculty

The University of Virginia provides open educational resources (OER) and open learning resources as a vital part of our mission to increase access to high-quality educational resources within the Commonwealth of Virginia.  OER content is provided on many platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, iTunes, and Coursera.  Publishing OER has provided an opportunity for the University to expand its global presence, integrate global perspectives to the UVA classroom, support teaching innovation, and encourage big data research through the use of learning analytics.


At the Library

We can help you find OER for your discipline, answer questions on copyright and fair use, facilitate training, share funding sources, and more.

Sustainable Open Scholarship is a downloadable PDF file that contains resources, tools, and services, plus a great deal more, that the Library has either created, supports, or suggests. There are resources for Researchers, Scholars, Instructors and Students. For copyright guidance, see also this guide.

LibraOpen is the library-maintained online archive of UVA scholarship, open for deposity to the UVA community.  Resources in Libra are discoverable through the Library's online catalog, Virgo. 

Aperio is an initiative of the UVA Library and Virginia Press. An open access publishing service, it is dedicated to making high-quality resources available for free, to anyone.  Open Educational Resources  |   Journals   |    eBooks

Pressbooks is a publishing solution for open educational resources, open to faculty, staff, and graduate students.  Undergraduates may have access for course projects with the permission of the instructor.  


Across Grounds

The Center for Teaching Excellence offers a number of signature programs, tailored services, rich resource materials, and seed grants designed to enhance the teaching environment at UVA.

The Learning Design and Technology team at the College of Arts and Sciences unit is ready to support effective pedagogy with technology.

Resources for Teaching Online is an invaluable resource by the Center for Teaching Excellence in support of the Great and Good Strategic Plan 2030 and which prepares UVA for teaching in the 21st century and learning in different modalities. If you are interested in creating digital assets for your course or converting parts of your course to be online, whether synchronous or asynchronous, these are resources to support you.

UVA's Office of Accessibility provides services and tools dedicated to equal access for all, led by the coordinator of academic accessibility, Lori Kressin.

4-VA at UVA awards collaborative research grants to UVA faculty members each spring to improve research competitiveness within the Commonwealth by providing funding for faculty teams to engage in pilot research that could be used as a springboard for subsequent external funding. 

This workflow will walk you through the process of OER production.  For a hyperlinked version, access the PDF document

We are actively working toward creating a Community of Practice of faculty and staff who have an interest in OER and Open Pedagogy.  

As we build this community, we invite you to join us.  We have created a Microsoft Teams space that you may access at the following link:
OR via the following QR code:


In order to join, you will need to enter the following access code: eck7odm