Faculty Open and Affordable Textbook Program

The high cost of textbooks is one of the many factors that affect student learning outcomes and student success.  Students avoid certain classes, drop a class, or do poorly when they cannot afford the text for a course. 

Students at Paul Smith's College have approved a sustainability grant to support a program to help reduce the barrier of high-cost materials so that they can access the quality course materials they need to be academically successful. When faculty use open and affordable materials, we aren't just saving students money on textbooks: we are directly impacting that their ability to enroll in, persist through, and successfully complete a course. 

The Open and Affordable Textbook Program supports students by offering incentives for teaching faculty to use alternative lower-cost and no-cost educational materials rather than high-cost textbooks.  This includes the adoption or adaption of existing OER materials.  If needed, it can support the creation of new Open Educational Resources (OER) to fill in gaps of your adopted/adapted OER materials.

Sponsored by the Paul Smith's Sustainability Committee, a fund of $6,000 will be available to faculty. Interested faculty are required to submit a proposal.

Eligibility and criteria
All PSC instructors are eligible to apply for the Open and Affordable Textbook Program. Awards are $500 per redesigned course section. A single faculty member can be granted multiple awards. Award recipients must implement an open or alternative textbook in their course(s) in Spring 2021.

Applicants must be an instructor of record for a spring 2021 course.

Projects not eligible for funding:

  • Existing textbook alternatives already in use by faculty; the proposal must be a new project
  • Commercial e-text versions of an existing print textbook
  • Textbook rentals

The following criteria will be used in determining awards:

  • Projected student savings
  • Type of project
  • Feasibility of successful implementation 

Expectations and support provided
Expectations of award recipients:

  • Adopt open resource alternatives to paid materials that reduce the cost to students by more than 50% AND bring the total course cost to students to below $50.
  • Agree to attend a minimum of two one-on-one OER consultations with library staff
  • Agree to distribute a survey to students in the course(s) in which the alternative materials are implemented.
  • Submit a syllabus and final report upon completion of the course (Please see final report requirements).
  • Report the open or alternative textbook adoption to the PSC Bookstore.
Support provided through PSC Library:
  • Distribute the incentive award of $500. The award can be used for any purpose. For Fall 2020 course redesigns, 80% will be distributed the third week of the fall semester. 20% will be distributed upon submission of the final report due December 20th, 2020. For Spring 2021 course redesigns, 80% will be distributed the third week of the spring semester. 20% will be distributed upon submission of the final report due May 10, 2021.
  • Orientation/training session and individual consultations to support the project.
  • Assistance searching for open educational resources and library materials, including a resource bank made available to faculty
  • Support for making materials available in Canvas
  • Copyright and Creative Commons licensing guidance

Apply for the Open and Affordable Textbook Program

Application deadline: October 18, 11:59 PM Eastern

Applicants will be notified of acceptance by October 23, 2020.

For those who are interested in the program but would like to discuss their alternative textbook project before applying, please contact Erin Cass at ecass@paulsmiths.edu

For questions or help, please contact library@paulsmiths.edu

Some FOIP materials modified from the University of Houston Alternative Textbook Incentive Program materials.
What is OER

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. By creating or adapting OERs, you can make high-quality educational materials such as textbooks and modules available at a lower cost. Most of the materials linked from this guide are Creative Commons-licensed, so you can adapt and re-use the material as long as you attribute the author. 

The Five R's of Openness:

  • Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  • Reuse - the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  • Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)


Open vs. Public Access

When using open access materials for PSC coursework, it is best to use no-cost open access materials and pass those savings on to students. The term "open access" is often used interchangeably with "free of charge," but this is not always the case. An important distinction must be made between something that is open access (and freely available) versus something that is truly public access (and free of charge). For more information visit the Public Library of Science (PLOS) guide, How Open Is It? 

This material was created by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at http://opencontent.org/definition/

Why You Should Use OER


Move beyond the restraints of traditional pedagogy and explore new ways to connect students with learning content.  Open Educational Resources allow instructors to customize course content to the specific learning goals of their courses and adapt new approaches to teaching and learning. 


With the rising cost of higher education, every dollar counts.  The ballooning cost of expensive textbooks and course materials is outpacing inflation and wages, resulting in a negative impact on students.  The 2016-2017 report from the National Association of College Stores found students spent an average of $579 on their required course materials.  

Student Success and Retention

One study shows that 65% of students don't buy textbooks due to the cost, even when they know it will affect their grade.  Nearly 50% of students reported that the cost of textbooks directly impacts what types and the number of classes students are able to take.  Help your students succeed by using no-cost textbooks and course materials. 

Learn More About OER