Open and Affordable Textbooks - FAQ

What is the Open and Affordable Textbooks (OAT) Program?

The Open and Affordable Textbooks (OAT) Program aims to encourage faculty and instructors to replace existing course materials with open educational resources (OER), library-licensed materials such as electronic books and articles, and/or low-cost materials. This means that the course materials will be free (or of very little cost) to students, reducing the financial burden many students face.

What do you mean by "open educational resources"?

According to the Hewitt Foundation, open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. OER are openly licensed and accessible beyond Rutgers, so students may continue to use the materials post-graduation.

What do you mean by "affordable"?

Unlike OER (see above), affordable materials can include library subscription resources that are freely accessible to Rutgers students, but not necessarily the wider public. These may include e-books, journal articles, media, and other items searchable through the Libraries' catalog. For instructors planning to use subscription materials in their courses, it is important to ask a librarian if there are limits to how many can access those resources at one time.

What is open pedagogy?

Open Pedagogy as an access-oriented commitment to learner-driven education and an approach that enables students to authentically contribute to the content of the course.

Read more about open pedagogical practices (OEP).

View a presentation on engaging students with OEP.

Some examples of OEP include:

  • Have students develop course content, like test questions, scenarios, or assignments 
  • Include student voices and experiences if creating a new open textbook
  • Build course policies, outcomes, assignments, rubrics, and schedules of work collaboratively with students

What are student-centered pedagogies?

Student-centered pedagogies describe a diverse set of teaching practices that allow students to influence the course content, activities, and/or materials. This approach is based on constructivist pedagogical theory, which maintains that learners actively construct knowledge, rather than just passively take in information.

Where can I find resources for enhancing course pedagogy?

The Center for Educational Innovation provides helpful information about diversifying your teaching methods, learning activities, and assignments.

What do you mean by "low cost"?

The overall goal of the OAT program is to greatly reduce student-incurred course material costs and, where appropriate, remove the cost barrier completely. However, in situations where that is not possible, we look for projects that use a "low cost" approach. Although the OAT program has not set a dollar amount for a "low cost" course, similar programs from Affordable Learning Georgia and legislation in Oregon and Louisiana use figures in the $30-$65 range, and we share those here as a general guideline. If you are not sure whether your proposal fits within the vision and scope of the OAT program, please contact your local OAT liaison.

How can I reflect my commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) in my proposal?

Since each course is unique, there is no “one size fits all” approach. You can adapt relevant principles which are consistent with your course’s objective. You may find helpful this article by OpenStax in understanding DEIA in the context of educational materials. Some questions to consider are:

  • How will your choice of open materials diversify perspectives and types of authority students are exposed to, as compared to the perspectives in "traditional" textbooks?
  • How will this course redesign impact senses of inclusion and accessibility for the diverse Rutgers student body?

Who is eligible to apply?

Any faculty (full-time or part-time), instructor, or curriculum developer teaching or delivering courses at Rutgers University–Camden, Rutgers University–New Brunswick, Rutgers University–Newark, or Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences is eligible to apply. We also encourage applications from individuals who already use OER/affordable resources in their courses and wish to enhance or augment them.

Please note RBHS applicants are welcome to apply for an OAT award if their course will be taught anytime within the calendar timeframe covered by award cycle.

Can I apply for more than $1000?

At this time, the OAT Program is capped at $1,000 per applicant per year.

If I have already won an OAT award, can I apply in another year?

We encourage instructors to extend the affordable/open course redesign to other courses they are teaching, whether or not they choose to apply for another OAT award. If you have been awarded in a previous year and would like to apply again, we will be looking for enhancements to your original course redesign that make it consistent with the goals of the new course and content. We also encourage instructors to explore open educational practices and contact your campus library liaisons for ideas and suggestions for enhancing future applications.

Can I apply more than once per application cycle?

Yes, but the OAT Program is limited to one research fund per person per year. You can opt to use your OAT award to modify multiple classes, but funds are capped at $1,000 per applicant per year.

I am not a full-time faculty member. Can I still apply?

Absolutely. Anyone who is teaching a course is encouraged to apply.

What kind of support can the library offer?

The Libraries want to make sure that you have all the support you need in order to implement your project successfully. In addition to assigning an OAT team member to work with you, the Libraries provide support in the following ways:

  • Access to experienced and knowledgeable subject specialist librarians
  • Expertise in identifying open/affordable course materials
  • Advice on basic copyright inquiries
  • Course reserves and media reserves services
  • Access to Pressbooks (Available to OAT Award recipients, this platform allows authors to create, remix, and publish open access content.)

What are the main reporting requirements?

At the completion of the OAT cycle (18 months), we will request feedback on your experiences using open educational resources in your course, and on the OAT Program in general. This will be done via a brief online survey form that will be sent to you.

How will students know my course is an OAT course?

We recommend you work with your department and/or campus scheduling office to place a note about OAT in the course listing. We will also supply an OAT logo and statement for you to insert in your syllabus or course materials.

When will I receive my award?

The funds will be transferred to your department soon after we receive all of the required information: 1) signed agreement form, 2) name/email address of your administrative contact, and 3) account number into which to transfer the funds.

Is this a cash award?

No. In fact, this is technically a "research fund," which means that it will be transferred to your department and not directly paid to you. The funding may be utilized as you see fit as long as it is in accordance with Rutgers and your department’s policies and procedures. Please provide an administrative contact for your area and the appropriate account to use for your transfer.

What can I use the research funds for?

The funding may be utilized as you see fit as long as it is in accordance with Rutgers policies and procedures. Some examples (from previous OAT winners): hiring a graduate or undergraduate student to help with the course redesign, attending a conference on best practices in teaching with open educational resources, or helping with expenses for other professional development or work-related travel needs.

I am a graduate student teaching a course. Will this award impact my financial aid?

If you are receiving financial aid, you are advised to check with the financial aid office to determine if there would be any impact to your personal financial package.

Who is funding this award?

The OAT Program is funded by Rutgers University Libraries and private donors. In 2017–2018, additional funding was supplied by Rutgers University–Camden.