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Research Guides@Tufts

Textbook Affordability & Open Educational Resources (OER)

This guide provides resources for finding alternatives to pricey textbooks and locating open educational resources (OER)

OER updates

Affordable Course Materials Awards:

Tisch Library is now accepting applications for Affordable Course Materials awards to support faculty & instructor projects to reduce costs for their students by identifying no-cost course materials to incorporate into their syllabus. Find out more and apply!


This guide will help you learn about and find no-cost course materials & Open Educational Resources (OER).

UNESCO defines OER as:

"Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions."

Why use OER?

Textbook costs are consistently rising, leaving many students unable to afford resources necessary for their coursework.

In 2019, a report from the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) stated:

"Prices have increased by almost 190% since 2006, and undergraduate students now budget over $1,200 for materials each academic year. Lower-income community college students are particularly affected, with textbook costs accounting for 80% of their total college attendance expenditures."

OER are one way to address textbook unaffordability by providing high quality, free alternatives.

Infographic of affordable course materials by Abbey K. Elder

Understanding open & free resources

What resources do you have permission to use?Affordable course material options table

Creative Commons Licenses

Many OERs are shared openly under Creative Commons (CC) licenses. CC licenses indicate the permissions for sharing and reusing creative work. Licenses range from public domain (no ownership or restrictions) to Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (give attribution to the creator, don't use for commercial purposes, and do not create derivatives).

You can use Creative Commons materials, including searching for Creative Commons images, or select a license for your own work.

An infographic showing the levels of Creative Commons licenses

Infographic: “Creative Commons License Spectrum” by Shaddim (CC BY)

Ask us

Contact Tisch staff for any questions about selecting or using OER.