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Course reserves, eBook costs, & OER

Course reserves, eBook costs, & OER

In mid-March, Boise State University began delivering all courses remotely in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The move to remote courses has changed the way students access materials, which includes textbooks provided through course reserves at Albertsons Library. Reserves are course-related materials that are held at the circulation desk; these items have a shorter loan period (determined by the instructor) to ensure that all students have equal access.

Library staff are continually trying to acquire reserve items as ebooks to facilitate this remote access to materials, but few are available. We looked at the 100 most-used course reserves in our collection to see if they could be purchased electronically and, of the 100 titles, over 70% of them are unavailable due to licensing issues, or not available electronically. Only 14 titles could be purchased as ebooks, but these were licensed by the publisher for only three total users each, which is impractical for a large campus community such as ours. The average cost for ebooks in our course reserves is about $200, with some individual titles costing as much as $800.

A Logo for representing Open Educational Resources.

Summer courses are going to be 100% provided remotely, and it is likely the stay-in-place restrictions will remain in the near future. In order to meet this challenge instructors can help their students have access to course materials by selecting textbooks–or creating course content–from openly available materials on the web called Open Educational Resources (OER). From creativecommons.org:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities (retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute).

The Albertsons library has a guide for finding OER at https://guides.boisestate.edu/oer. Instructors can search and use different subject collections from dozens of providers, or they can search across collections from these two meta search engines: George Mason University’s Mason OER & SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library OASIS (Openly Available Sources Integrated Search):


MOM iconMason OER Metafinder (MOM)



Advanced Search

The OER Metafinder launches a real-time, simultaneous search across 22 different sources of open educational materials as you hit the Search button.


Openly Available Sources Integrated Search (OASIS) is a search tool that aims to make the discovery of open content easier. OASIS currently searches open content from 97 different sources and contains 385,629 records.


Faculty can also get course support and assistance from the Boise State OER group, a community of practice made up of faculty, staff, and students who contribute and “help shape the landscape of open and affordable learning at Boise State.” The group is open to anyone on campus: https://www.boisestate.edu/oer/

Together we can partner with faculty to facilitate the creation and access of quality materials, greatly reduce students’ financial stress associated with textbooks, and champion faculty choice in how content is created and shared at Boise State and beyond.

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