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Open Educational Resources (OER): ISU Textbook Heroes

Open Educational Resources can help students with course material costs and increase student retention and graduation rates. This guides explains how to find OER and evaluate how they can be used in a course.

ISU Textbook Heroes

Textbook Heroes LogoMeet our ISU Textbook Heroes! Textbook heroes are members of the ISU community who have promoted or adopted low-cost or free course materials, including open educational resources (OER), helping ISU students save on the cost of course materials and showing an outstanding commitment to student retention and success. The Textbook Heroes initiative exists to express our gratitude and appreciation for those working to make course materials more affordable. 

This initiative was launched in Fall 2020, and we hope to announce a new cohort of heroes each year. Do you know a faculty member, administrator, or student working to make course materials more affordable at ISU?  Contact Spencer Jardine at for details about our next call for nominations.

ISU Textbook Heroes 2021

"Over a decade ago I decided that I could no longer justify the cost of textbooks or course materials for my students.  I decided then that I would take whatever time needed to either find available OER resources or create my own resources for my classes. I work to adapt existing open content for my courses, and I also help students learn to create and use OER for any future instruction work they may design or develop." - John Curry, Organizational Learning and Performance
Dr. Todd Morris "For several years, I have used an OER textbook from the Open Textbook Library for my Introduction to Chemistry (CHEM 1101) sections and an OpenStax OER textbook for my General Chemistry courses (CHEM 1111 and CHEM 1112). Consistent with the extensive published literature, I have found no differences between the success rate of my students with a free textbook vs. a traditional, costly textbook. Although I have no control over tuition rates and other assorted fees, I can ensure that my courses have minimal ancillary costs and remain good values for my students by adopting low-cost or free course resources. In addition to the direct benefits of making college more affordable, students have reported to me that the use of an OER textbook has reduced their financial and emotional stress levels and has given them more time to study because they do not have to work as many hours." - Todd Morris, Chemistry
Dr. Elizabeth Schniedewind "I have committed to minimizing textbook expenses to students without sacrificing quality of instruction. I have found materials that are less expensive and of similar quality where no OER materials exist, and curated OER and other publicly-available materials to create supporting texts for class instruction. Students use library resources to access articles and texts that reinforce course content. Using this approach, I have entirely eliminated textbook costs in CSD 2258, CSD 4401, and CSD 4432. Further, I have reduced costs in CSD 2250." - Elizabeth Schniedewind, Sign Language Interpreting
Dr. Jeremy Thomas

"Following from an extensive team effort with multiple faculty and graduate student assistants, we recently completed a total OER redesign of SOC 1101, Introduction to Sociology, including using materials from an OER publisher as well as materials that we developed ourselves. In doing so, we eliminated a textbook and a supplemental text that were together costing students around $80 per semester. Not only that, but the course we created is clearly superior to its prior version. We are now using this team-developed OER course across all of our sections of SOC 1101 (over 300 students each semester), which represent around $25,000 in savings per semester. Within just a few years, this choice to move to OER will literally save our students hundreds of thousands of dollars, and not only that, we are providing a superior experience with convenient and early-accessible materials that are developed for our particular students and their particular needs." - Jeremy Thomas

Note: ISU Libraries also wishes to extend their gratitude to Dr. Thomas's OER team. Special thanks to the Sociology department faculty for their planning input, and to the graduate students who assisted Dr. Thomas in the course development work: Jessica Sargent, Sarah Liftawi, and Jessica Reynolds.

Dr. Mary Van Donsel "I teach an undergraduate course, CSD 3315 - Clinical Processes – Pediatrics. This is a foundational course that provides information about what it’s like to be a pediatric clinician in the field of speech-language pathology. As I began working to redesign my course, I came to realize that there wasn’t one book that fit my needs for my course. I was able to work with our librarian to seek out resources for the course that were already available as e-books for the students, including their textbook. I also use a variety of websites and journal articles that the students are able to access. I remember the daunting cost of textbooks when I was in school, and it’s an exciting feeling for me to know that I’ve been able to offer the students all of their resources at no cost. " - Mary Van Donsel, Communication Sciences and Disorders

2020 Textbook Heroes

ISU Textbook Heroes 2020

Mark McBethThe OER resources in my course include an online open source textbook along with a wide variety of additional OER readings from the Library of Congress, US government institutions, universities, and libraries. Students appreciated that not every chapter in the textbook had to be covered and they appreciated being able to read a variety of reading sources that supplemented textbook readings. The students all stated that they learned a great deal from the readings and they were pleased that the OER readings did not cost them anything. There is no loss of quality in the course and in fact, the OER material has only improved the course. - Dr. Mark K. McBeth, Political Science

Amy Jo PopaAdopting an OER for Art 1100 was a win, win situation for our department. It has benefited our students by providing equal access to the textbook and saving them money. Using the new resource inspired the redesign of the course for both face to face and online classes. This change created the opportunity to improve our students experience and quality of their education. - Amy Jo Popa, Art



Marie StangoI have seen a lot of positive changes in my course, Hist 1111: Survey of US History 1, since I started assigning OER materials. Making this switch allowed me to tailor my materials to my course goals, and it has provided more flexibility in my course design. One of the clear benefits of using OER has been that my students are now able to readily access course material at any time and in any place to complete the coursework, and they can quickly look up the answer to a reference question. Most importantly, making use of OER has substantially reduced the cost of course materials, which is an important step in removing barriers that can impede student success. - Dr. Marie Stango, History

Iris BuderI have recently adopted an Open Educational Resource (OER) for use in my Economic Issues (ECON1100) course at Idaho State University. The book I have selected for this course is Principles of Economics (2nd Edition) from OpenStax. I believe that it is important to provide low-cost, high-quality materials for my classes and am committed to providing affordable course materials. With the OER, the students in my course do not have to worry about the cost of the book as it is provided free of charge, which has been a tremendous help. Additionally, OpenStax provides students with resources such as tips on time management, setting priorities and how to utilize the features within the book. - Dr. Iris Buder, Economics


Sarah RobeyI teach courses in US History and the History of Science and Technology and it has been rewarding to find OER materials that fit my syllabi and the course topics. For example, I teach my general education US History courses with a free online textbook called Building the American Republic. Students have told me that they appreciate that it can be read on many different digital platforms or they can get a low-cost print copy. I like it because it's very user friendly and top-notch quality for a survey textbook. Win-win! - Dr. Sarah Robey, History



Zack HeernAlthough there are not yet suitable OER materials for World History textbooks, I appreciate the OER initiative because it has encouraged us to think about decreasing the additional fees that students pay for their courses. Therefore, I have adopted a low cost textbook and I have relied more on academic journal articles that are free to our students through Ebsco, Jstor, and other such databases. This has the added benefit of teaching students how to locate primary and secondary sources. - Dr. Zackery Heern, History



Cathy GrayWhen I began teaching the Introduction to Information Research (LLIB 1115), it was difficult to locate affordable texts that discussed information literacy concepts and provided practical advice to students for college-level research. Although I could easily teach the material, the students needed something they could refer to in the future. So, I wrote a workbook for students to use through the research process, which introduced them to information literacy concepts and the library resources available to them. Librarians encouraged me to publish it…why not? Developing my “text” into an OER required some technology assistance, a student intern at the library helped tremendously, and I can easily update the OER each year. That is particularly important as the library resources and citation formats often change. Meanwhile, the students that have this resource have research assistance at their fingertips throughout their college career. - Catherine Gray, Library, author of Bridging the Gap: A Guide to College-Level Research

Lydia WilkesMy students love the readings I use in ENGL 1101: Writing and Rhetoric 1 from the OER textbooks Bad Ideas about Writing and Writing Spaces. Written specifically for first-year college writing students, these textbooks introduce key concepts in writing and rhetoric in a way that invites students to talk about their prior knowledge of these concepts, such as audience and revision, and how expectations for college writing differ from expectations for high school writing. Students appreciate the mythbusting approach in Bad Ideas about Writing and I see them learn so much each week when they reflect on their learning. Both textbooks are free to access digitally and hence reduce barriers to student success, but the biggest benefit I see is the conversations they start about students’ writing practices, attitudes, and knowledge. - Dr. Lydia Wilkes, English

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