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Open Educational Resources (OER)

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

Resources Related to Students and OER

Open Textbooks Guide

This detailed guidebook explains the advantages of open textbooks and then lays out specific ways to promote open books.



A few infographics taken from this guidebook:

On Textbooks and Access Codes


Fixing the Broken Textbook Market (June 2020)

How are high course material costs affecting students today? The Student PIRGs implemented a national survey in Fall 2019 to find out. [They] asked nearly 4,000 students to share their experiences with us, across 83 institutions serving over 500,000 students. [They] found that despite publishers’ talking points that access codes and other digital materials have answered student’s cries for help over costs, there has been little measurable improvement in key textbook affordability measures over the last six years since our last national survey.

With the rise of access codes, many students are being priced out of participating in class, especially since homework can be up to 20 percent of their grade. The move to digital also provides new challenges and questions on the front of student data privacy.


undefinedAutomatic Textbook Billing Report (Feb 2020)

U.S. PIRG Education Fund undertook a first of its kind review of these contracts covering 31 colleges across the country, and affecting more than 700,000 undergraduate students. The review found that many of these contracts fail to deliver real savings for students, reduce faculty and student choice, and give even more power to a handful of big publishing companies.

Recommendations stress the need to implement options that preserve faculty and institutional control, and enhance student choice:

  • Have a clearly marked pricing structure publically available that shows the original price of the assigned material, the discount off the national list price, and multiple format options.
  • Reject attempts to restrict marketing materials that can be issued by the institution to educate students on their course materials purchasing options.
  • Eliminate quotas. The discounts alone ought to be enough to get students to participate at a high enough level to make a program worthwhile.
  • Cap annual price increases to no more than the rate of inflation, which is currently at 2.3 percent annually.
  • End any restrictions on the number of students who can obtain print copies.
  • Have the billing mechanism be opt-in and listed as one of many methods of payment alongside credit cards, cash, etc. that students can use at the bookstore.There is nothing wrong with institutions seeking to negotiate bulk discounts for students, but students should be able to choose whether to take advantage of it and how they pay.


OPEN 101: An Action Plan for Affordable Textbooks (Jan 2018)

Student-authored report. Key findings:

  • When publishers bundle a textbook with an access code, it eliminates student’s ability to shop around. For the classes using bundles, students would likely be stuck paying full price, whereas for the classes using a textbook only, students could cut costs up to 58% by buying used online.
  • Schools that have invested in open educational resources (OER) generated significant savings for their students.
  • Switching the ten introductory classes in our study to OER nationwide would save students $1.5 billion per year in course materials costs.


ACCESS DENIED: The New Face of the Textbook Monopoly (Sep 2016)

This report contains two pieces: a survey of critical consumer-oriented information on the potential impact of access codes, and an analysis of the transition from the student perspective.


Working for change from within the system


Student Government Toolkit

Organizing toolkit for student governments and other student leaders provides instructions and tips on how to bring open textbooks to your campus. Includes strategies for running a successful campaign (i.e., sample campaign plan, leaflet templates, social media and awareness event ideas),




Creating change from outside the system


The Activist Toolkit

This Activist Toolkit provides the basic tools to run strong campaigns and win victories for students and the public interest. Among the topics covered are recruitment (i.e., phonebanking, online organizing), leadership development, grassroots organizing, and working with the media.

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?

UVA had a tremendous return of responses amongst its sample size of 20% of students.  The largest representation was from those identifying as undergraduates.

The full report is viewable at the bottom of this page (see VIVA Course Materials Survey). 

Included are some selected takeaways.  Graphics provided via VIVA Course Materials Default Report.

Q: About how much did you spend on course materials, whether purchased, leased, or rented, during this semester? A guess is OK.

Graphic showing students' expenditure for textbooks within a semester.










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

Image of students' responses to question of how the cost of textbooks has impacted their decision making process.

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

Graphic demonstrating students' preferred method of purchased course materials.

When asked how the cost of course materials has influenced their education progress, students replied with varying degrees of concern.  Some exemplary 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 course where I'm forced to buy a nonrefundable/expensive online textbook/program to complete the course because it's 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 also 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 pay even more to purely rent the hard copy for the year which is frustrating because all we do everyday 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 into 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 $200+ 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 professor's 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 educational progress is stunted.

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