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Choosing Course Readings for Online or Hybrid Fall Courses: We Can Help!

July 6, 2020

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As we approach the Fall 2020 semester, library staff are working hard to provide access to all required course readings. With the uncertainty about how many classes will be held on campus versus online, we are focused on providing access to online textbooks and course readings whenever possible.  

The advantage of assigning online course readings or e-textbooks—including those that are openly accessible—is that your students will have immediate access and at no cost to them. Additionally, online texts can be easily integrated into your Sakai or Canvas site, and many e-texts allow students to highlight content, make annotations, take and save notes, search for terms, and collaborate with each other. 

One thing many faculty may not be aware of is that a significant portion of textbook publishers do not provide electronic purchasing options for libraries. This is because textbook publishers make their profits by selling e-textbooks directly to students. These publishers include: Cengage, McGraw-Hill, Sage, Oxford University Press Textbooks (not their monographs), Prentice Hall, and Pearson. And unfortunately, this business model has been shown to be a major financial hurdle for students

Under normal circumstances, the Library would purchase a print copy of these textbooks and make them available to one student at a time to check out from the Library. With our move to remote or a hybrid model of instruction, and with the need to quarantine print books for 24 hours in order to ensure they will not spread the Covid-19 virus, the Library will not be able to provide students with access to print-only Course Readings (we can provide chapter scans, however. More on this below). 

Because not all books are available online, Librarians can help you investigate online access to the texts you want to assign, and if none exist, suggest alternatives. 

Multi-User E-Books

Check to see if the Library already has an e-version of a required text for your class by searching the Library’s catalog. If you find an e-book, you can add a link to it in Sakai or Canvas so your students can easily find it (video instructions on how to do this); in some cases, you can even link directly to a particular chapter within the e-book.If the Library does not currently provide access to an e-book you want to assign or if you want to confirm whether our license for an existing e-book allows for multiple simultaneous users to access it, fill out this form and we’ll investigate for you.

Finding Affordable Course Materials or Open Educational Resources

If you are still deciding which texts to assign for your fall course, Subject Librarians are available to help you identify high quality free or lower-cost textbooks, e-books, journal articles, or other materials to use in your courses as alternatives to expensive textbooks/course readings.There is also a growing body of open textbooks, often referred to as Open Educational Resources (OERs), that are created by faculty and made available for others to use. These are 100% free for students, do not have copyright restrictions, and can be adapted to your class purposes. (For example, you can extract individual chapters, or even parts thereof, to mix with your own materials). Additionally, using an open textbook means that students will have access to the assigned readings on day one of your class.

Some places you might start to look for Open Textbooks:

    • Open Textbook Library via the University of Minnesota. All e-textbooks are under a Creative Commons license and are free to use and download. Many are peer reviewed by faculty members who have used these books in their own classes.
    • OpenStax via Rice University. Freely licensed e-textbooks available to read online or download in multiple formats. Also includes some classroom resources.
    • Open SUNY Textbooks via the State University of New York (SUNY). Produced as part of an open access publishing initiative by SUNY Libraries, these e-books are written and peer reviewed by faculty, and they fall under a Creative Commons license.
    • InTechOpen. Home to nearly 3,000 open e-books, InTech is the world’s largest science, technology, and medicine open access book publisher. It encourages teachers to use their materials in the classroom.

What if We Can’t Find a Suitable Digital Alternative?

The Library adheres to accepted best practices that recognize the importance of fair use to teaching. If we are unable to find a suitable digital option for a textbook or course reading, we can scan portions of library owned print materials for courses. Please consider the following before making a scanning request:

    • If you are able to scan course materials yourself for sharing with your class through Sakai or Canvas, we encourage you to exercise your right to do so under the TEACH Act (Section 108)
    • Somewhere in the system that you store the materials provide a notice to students that “materials used in connection with the course may be subject to copyright protection”.
    • If you do not have the time or capacity to do the scanning yourself and would like our help, we ask that you submit requests to us for only the portions of a given work that are needed for full participation in the course.
    • Finally, please only distribute the scans to students using Sakai, Canvas, or any other platform that requires students to log in (e.g., Box or Google Drive) in order to ensure that access is limited to those enrolled in the course.

Submit requests to scan sections of print-only course readings to:

Submit your course readings to the Library

For more resources and information on finding affordable or open course materials for your fall classes, contact your Subject Librarian.