Open Education Resources Made Easy

by Jessica Lange, Scholarly Communications Librarian

Thinking about using open textbooks this fall?

3 easy steps: Find, Evaluate, Use!

The drastic shift to online in higher education has a lot of professors rethinking their instruction methods as well as their course materials. Substituting online materials for print, is becoming an attractive option.

Locating and using open content doesn’t have to be hard and the Library is there to support you along the way.

  1. Find
    1. SUNY has created a search engine dedicated to open textbooks and related materials. It’s a great place to start: https://oasis.geedu/
    2. Tip: Search and then limit to ‘open access book’ or ‘textbook’
      search platform with filters on right hand side pointing to type: open access book and textbook
  2. Evaluate
    1. BCCampus has developed a great checklist for assessing an open textbook:
      1. Faculty Guide for Evaluating Open Education Resources
  3. Use
    1. Using these textbooks is as easy as providing a link. If you see a Creative Commons license (e.g.creative commons CC-BY license ) this means the item is free for students to download, save, and use—no additional rights or permissions required. All you have to do is credit the original author.

Can’t find content for your course or subject area? Don’t hesitate to contact your liaison librarian.

Frequently-Asked Questions

  • Won’t I be infringing on copyright if I use these materials?
  • What is the quality of these materials? 
    • As with any publication, quality will vary. However, many open textbooks are developed through rigorous peer review and production processes that mirror traditional materials. It is important to note that being open or closed does not inherently affect the quality of a resource.
  • Do open textbooks require special technology to use? 
    • No. One of the great things about open textbooks is that users have the right to turn it into any format they wish (which is almost always forbidden with traditional resources). Therefore, open textbooks aren’t tied to a particular type of device or software, which gives students and schools more freedom in what technology they purchase. In cases where technology isn’t available, there is always the option to print.
  • Does using open textbooks affect student learning? 
    • Studies to date have not shown a negative effect on student learning. A good summary of current research can be found on this guide. 
  • How do you tell if an educational resource is an open textbook? 
    • The key distinguishing characteristic of an open textbook is its intellectual property license and the freedoms the license grants to others to share and adapt it. If a book is not clearly tagged or marked as being in the public domain or having an open license, it is not open. It’s that simple. The most common way to release materials as open textbooks is through Creative Commons copyright licenses, which are standardized, free-to-use open licenses that have already been used on more than 1 billion copyrighted works.
  • What is the difference between ‘free’ and ‘open’ resources?
    •  Free resources may be temporarily free or may be restricted from use at some time in the future (including by the addition of fees to access those resources). Moreover, free-but-not-open resources may not be modified, adapted or redistributed without obtaining special permission from the copyright holder.

FAQs adapted in part from SPARC’s FAQ: Open Educational Resources (Creative Commons Attribution (CCBY) 4.0 International License)

See also: McGill Library Open Textbooks guide.

Self-Isolation Care Package

Dear McGill Community & Beyond,

This past week the Library has been continuing to provide services online. We are settling into our new reality and prepared to help our users in this era of remote instruction. However, we are also human. The idea of self-isolation and working from home may sound novel at first, but soon we all begin to feel its effects.

We know a lot of you have been fatigued by mention of COVID-19 in the news. Your social media feeds are likely full of updates or memes on the topic. Even the conversations you have with your friends and family can’t seem to avoid the virus. It’s the same for us too.

That is why we got to work and prepared a little Self-Isolation Care Package. These pages are an extension of our new online Redpath Book Display, and since we can’t exactly put up books in the library right now, we figured we could at least do a little something online. As we were looking for great E-books to share with you, we started to realize maybe this page should include a little bit more. Our staff helped put together a few of our favourite things, some you will find in the McGill Library catalogue and others might just be our go-to podcasts, recipes, or Netflix binge recommendations (we highly recommend not watching Contagion for the fifth time this week).

Whatever it is, we hope that you find the same enjoyment in these things as we have. Until such time comes that we can put up another book display in the Redpath main floor hall, look for us here.

All the best & stay well,

McLennan-Redpath Library

“Food” for Thought!

We’ve reached the beginning of March, and the winter weather is still upon us – the perfect weather for cozying up and indulging in those wonderful comfort foods. March celebrates World Agriculture Day, Tea for Two Tuesday, and national holidays celebrating peanut butter, frozen food, popcorn, chips and dip, waffles, and more. With so many holidays for such scrumptious foods, why not curl up with a yummy book as well?

This month’s book display, Food for Thought, features a vast array of books about food – from cookbooks, to fiction, to works discussing the culture and history behind food. There is something for everyone who appreciates the deliciousness of foodstuffs.shelves of books from the food for thought display

If you’re looking for fiction, we have wonderful food-related works by brilliant women writers (March 8th is International Women’s Day after all!), such as The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, Simple Recipes, a collection of short stories by Madeleine Thien, Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, and Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe.

Need your Food Network, celebrity-chef fix? Food Media : Celebrity Chefs and the Politics of Everyday Interference by Signe Rousseau explores the rise of the celebrity chef and how they influence everyday eating, and features chapters written by chefs like Jamie Oliver, Rachel Ray, and Nigella Lawson. You could also explore the lives of famous chefs like Julia Child (My Life in France), Betty Crocker (Finding Betty Crocker), and Anthony Bourdain (Kitchen Confidential).

You can also explore topics such as food as revolution (Southern Food and Civil Rights: Feeding the Revolution; Edible Action: Food Activism and Alternative Economics; Appetite for Change: How the Counterculture Took on the Food Industry), cooking (Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat; Chinese Home-Style Cooking; A History of Food in 100 Recipes), and the dangers of unhealthy eating (Fast Food Nation; Food Inc; Cooked.).

No matter what your reading preference, we have something on the menu for everyone! Come check us out in the Redpath Library hallway on the main floor.


This book display was created by our Graduate Student Reference Assistants, Lindsey Franks and Virginia Larose.