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Open and Affordable Course Materials

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Liz Thompson
Room 2311, Rose Library

WHY: Course Materials are a Social Justice Issue

Student Costs and Success: 

  • JMU recommends students budget $1,254 for books in 2023-2024
  • In a Fall 2021 student survey, JMU students reported that the cost of course materials have caused them to not register for a course (34%), drop or withdraw from a course (34%), and take fewer courses (24%).
  • According to a recent report by USPIRG, students reported that they skip buying assigned textbooks despite concerns it will impact their grade.

Historically Underserved Populations:

  • The results of a large-scale study (21,822 students) indicate that OER adoptions improve grades and decrease DFW (D, F, and Withdrawal letter grades) rates for all students while improving course grades at greater rates and decreasing DFW rates at greater rates for Pell recipient students, part-time students, and populations historically underserved by higher education.

The promise of open and affordable course content:

  • A student saves $128 per course when a traditionally published textbook is replaced with an open textbook. (Open Textbooks: The Billion-Dollar Solution, The Student PIRGs)
  • While the current catalog of OER titles comes from a predominantly white culture, you can find examples of instructors revising and remixing the content in these titles to be culturally responsive and to reflect and feature diverse voices and experiences. For instance, BCCampus publishes textbooks that reflect Indigenous populations. (link to full CFI Teaching Toolbox)

Learn about Federal and State policies and grant programs

WHAT: Open Educational Resources are ...

... any educational resources such as textbooks, tutorials, handouts, quizzes, videos, etc.
... that have an open license, which allow users to reuse, redistribute, revise, remix, and retain resources.

Open Educational Resources, also known as OER, are freely available to customize and share. The Creative Commons license assigned to the OER provides the specific parameters of use designated by the content creator.   


Get started with OER and learn more.

WHAT: Affordable Course Content is ...

... any educational resource available for student use at low or no additional cost.

Examples include:

  • Open educational resources (OER),
  • Library licensed resources (like subscription journals and e-books),
  • Faculty-created resources, and
  • Items that fall under fair use.  

Check out the Affordable Course Content opportunities at JMU.

WHAT: Matrix of Open and Affordable Materials

Curious about automatic textbook billing programs, also known as Inclusive Access (IA) or Equitable Access (EA)?

A textbook sales model that adds the cost of digital course materials into students' tuition and fees, automatic textbook billing programs may not be as good a deal as described, especially when you consider their limitations and data collection terms. Visit to separate the myths from the facts. 

WHY: Federal and State Policies and Grant Programs

Virginia Policies & Grant Programs

VA § 23.1-1308. Governing board procedures; textbook sales and bookstores; open educational resources.

Summary of E and F: Institutions will implement guidelines for adopting and using low- and no-cost course materials and identify these course materials in the course catalog or registration system.  


VIVA Open Grants

VIVA (Virtual Library of Virginia) offers Open Adopt Grants and Open Course Grants on a regular cycle, which provide funding for instructors to adopt, adapt, and create course content that can be made available to students for no or very little cost. VIVA is funded by the Virginia General Assembly as well as VIVA member institutions, and is sponsored by the State Council of Higher Education.


Federal Policies & Grant Programs

20 U.S. Code § 1015b Textbook information

(a)Purpose and intent: The purpose of this section is to ensure that students have access to affordable course materials by decreasing costs to students and enhancing transparency and disclosure with respect to the selection, purchase, sale, and use of course materials. It is the intent of this section to encourage all of the involved parties, including faculty, students, administrators, institutions of higher education, bookstores, distributors, and publishers, to work together to identify ways to decrease the cost of college textbooks and supplemental materials for students while supporting the academic freedom of faculty members to select high quality course materials for students.


Open Textbook Pilot Grant Program

First funded by Congress in the bipartisan fiscal year 2018 government spending bill, the Open Textbook Pilot is a U.S. federal grant program that supports projects at institutions of higher education that create or expand the use of open textbooks to achieve savings for students.