Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 


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Why would my instructor use OER instead of a traditional textbook?

Just like you, many of your instructors have grown concerned with the rapidly rising costs of college textbooks and other learning resources. They recognize that switching to OER is a way of savings students money without sacrificing the quality of your education. And because OER are openly licensed, instructors also have a more freedom to customize OER for their courses. Undoubtedly you have had times where you have purchased a textbook only to be assigned select chapters or sections to read rather than the entire book. With OER, instructors can provide only those materials that are relevant to the class which means no more paying for books you aren't going to need. Plus, since OER are online, instructors can make sure the content of their OER is always up to date without having to wait for a publisher to release a new edition of a textbook. 

Are OER as good as traditional textbooks and learning resources?

The short answer is yes! Studies have been conducted that show many students and faculty believe OER to be just as accurate and useful as traditional learning materials. For a list of these studies you can visit the Open Education Group's website here.

Are OER all online or can I get print copies?

By definition open educational resources are "born digital" which means they are created as online resources. One of the many benefits of OER is that they are online and can be accessed from any device with an Internet connection (desktop computer, cell phone, tablet, etc.). That said, there are ways to obtain print copies of OER for much lower cost than traditional textbooks. For example:

  • You can print only the information you need from an OER using a printer at the library or tech mall for .15 a page (.75 for color copies).
  • Websites such as Amazon and offer print services at cost which means there is no publisher or bookstore mark up.
  • Some OER projects, such as OpenStax and LibreTexts, offer ready made print files for OER that can be sent to sites such a lulu and printed at cost; again, these cost far less than buying a textbook from the bookstore or online from a publisher or vendor such as Amazon. 
Can I keep OER after my class is over?
 Yes! One of the 5R's of OER is retain. This means you can keep your OER for as long as you'd like after your class is over.
Can I share OER with my classmates?
 Absolutely! OER are open by nature which means they are meant to be shared. Sharing a link to a digital version of an open resource, as well as sharing a print copy is in no way a violation of anyone's copyright. Just remember if you do cite the resource somewhere you must give a proper attribution just as you would with a traditional textbook.
Are library resources the same as OER?

 While library resources are always free for students to use, many of these resources, such as databases and journals, are paid for by the library. Since they are not freely available online, or openly licensed for remixing and revising, library resources are not considered OER. However, they are a great alternative to more expensive textbooks and learning materials when you are doing research for your courses!


The Grossmont College library also has a collection of textbooks on reserve that can be checked out for a limited time (usually 4 hours) and used instead of purchasing an expensive textbook for a course. While not every book for every class is available, stop by the library to see if yours is available during the first week of class and submit a purchase request with a librarian if it is not yet in the collection. They will always do their best to get copies of the most popular textbooks on reserve each semester.