Finding Open Textbooks

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This topic will help you find open textbooks that will be useful to both instructors and students as they teach and learn in a face-to-face or online setting. This topic is designed to take about two to four hours to complete with some side trips for searching for textbooks and exploring web links.

College Open Textbook Website - Search Helper

Before You Look For An Open Textbook, Consider the Following:

  1. Course Outline: Some instructors use the textbook to structure their course. Others know what and how they want to teach and use the text as a backup. Whichever way you choose to go, it helps to have your outline available against which to measure the textbooks you find.
  2. Custom Materials Already in Use: If the course has been offered at your school already, there may be some articles, handouts, or other supplementary materials that are given to students in addition to the main textbook. When searching for a new digital textbook, it helps to have reviewed these materials recently. By having these materials in mind, you can decide whether the new text fits well or is incompatible with them.
  3. Time Available to Modify: Many of the digital textbooks you will discover come with permission to remix them and make "mash ups" with other materials or parts of other open books. This takes time, effort, and thought. As you review books for possible adoption, decide whether your course really needs a complete book or if individual chapters from a variety of sources will better fits your needs.
  4. Ways You Will Ask Your Students to Use the Textbook: Will the textbook serve as the main source of information in your course, or will it be supplementary to your lectures and class discussions? Do your face-to-face students need to bring the textbook to class? Will your online students be turning in exercises from the end of each chapter? Planning for your course interactivity before you explore the available open textbooks will help sway you toward one choice or another.
  5. Compatibility with Learning Management Systems: Often, some or all of the open textbook you choose can be loaded into your institution's online management system. How easy or difficult this is to do may seriously affect which book you ultimately decide upon.

Don't worry if you are not yet finished thinking about these issues - just doing some preliminary thinking helps to filter your choices from available texts. Choosing an open textbook is an iterative process and your attitudes may change as you and your students discover new ways to interact with these media.

Steps for "Discovering" Open Textbooks

There are at least four basic strategies for discovering a suitable open textbook for your next course.

  1. Ask your colleagues - You will be able to do this by participating in the forums within this course and by joining the Ning network hosted by College Open Textbooks. But you really should try a few searches on your own so keep reading...
  2. Search by Subject and use material with a Creative Commons license that meets your needs (or modify it so it does).
  3. Look at Reviews and use the open textbook that gets the most glowing reports.
  4. Search the repositories broadly. Click on the links below to search using College Open Textbooks and Connexions. Search strategies for other repositories will be covered later in the course.

Choose at least three candidate collections of textbooks that, in total, cover most of the topics you want to include in your course. Then review each candidate and either:

  • pick the existing textbook that is the closest fit to most of your objectives, or
  • select the specific modules (files) from each collection you want your students to use and remix them into a customized text for your course.

Rice University - the Vision Behind Connexions Repository

Weekly Forum Questions

Question #1 -

Please tell us where you searched, what your search criteria were, and what you found.