Skip to Main Content

Open Education: Getting Started with OER

A guide to open educational resources, open pedagogy, and the open ed movement at Gettysburg College

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I let students know their textbook is free?

We recommend telling students about their open textbook through as many channels as possible—you never know where they might look! We highly encourage reporting your open textbook adoption to the College Bookstore (more below). This will give students a centralized place to check on their required texts and may also open up options for printed textbooks (more below). We also recommend noting that the book is free and open in your syllabus, and even reaching out to your students before the start of classes to let them know about their textbook.

Should I notify the Bookstore if I am using OER?

Yes, please notify the College Bookstore! There are at least two reasons to do so:

  1. Sometimes the Bookstore stocks print versions of OER for sale. If you don't want students to purchase these before the first class day, please use the "Note" field in the Barnes & Noble Adoption & Insights Portal to leave them a message. They will then know to wait for class before deciding whether to purchase a print copy of a title that is freely available online.
  2. When students look up your course on the Bookstore website, you want them to know that there are no books to purchase. (The alternative is that it looks like the professor hasn't yet reported adoptions, which can cause confusion or distress.)
Can my students get a printed textbook with OER?

Because the open license under which open textbooks are printed all allow redistribution, open textbooks can be printed, and there are many options for doing so. Some open textbook publishers, like OpenStax, offer low-cost hardcover editions that are sold online or can be ordered through the College Bookstore. Many open textbooks are also offered as formatted, downloadable PDFs that can be printed by the College print shop or through print-on-demand services—even if the materials are published under a noncommercial license. You or your students can also print chapters or copies on home or library computers.

Do OER come with homework systems, test banks, etc?

These "extras" that often accompany commercial textbooks are called ancillary resources. Many open textbooks have ancillaries that are only available to confirmed instructors. OER Commons is the first place we look for ancillaries that support specific titles. Don't hesitate to contact us at with questions about ancillaries.

Finding OER

Want some help finding open textbooks or other kinds of OER?

Librarians can help with your search! Tell us what you currently use and/or what you hope to find, and we will create a short list of OER for you to consider. Spend your valuable time evaluating OER rather than searching for them. Email us at!

Finding Open Textbooks

Finding Open Ancillaries