OC logo
Libraries Home Start Researching Subject Guides Services About Us
Skip to Main Content

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Labeling FAQ

FAQs about Course Labeling of Textbook Information

The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) has made it possible for students to search in the Class Schedule for courses using “OER: No Textbook to Purchase” or “Low-Cost Textbook.”

This document provides directions and parameters to aid OC faculty and administrative assistants in designating courses with “OER: No Textbook to Purchase” or “Low-Cost Textbook” attributes in the ctcLink Class Schedule.

What does “Open Educational Resources” or “OER” mean?

“Open Educational Resources” describe any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or have an open license. This means that these materials can be legally and freely copied, used, adapted and re-shared in the classroom. There are different kinds of open licenses, including “Creative Commons licenses” or “CC licenses.” See the SBCTC OER & Low-Cost Labeling Policies for more information on what does and doesn't qualify for the OER label. 

What does it mean for you when designating courses as OER courses? From the student perspective, it means that they do not have to purchase a standard textbook because digital OER are free. This also explains why the course attribute value in ctcLink is labeled “OER: No Textbook to Purchase.” 

Does “OER” mean “digital”?

Not necessarily. OER can be digital, in print, or a combination of both. For example, a CC-licensed e-book that is available for free online or download would qualify as OER, whereas an all-rights-reserved e-book that charges a one-time or rental fee would not qualify as OER.

What if my course has NO textbook at all?

You will need to use the “Low-Cost Textbooks” label.

What does an “OER: No Textbook to Purchase” course designation NOT include?

If you have no textbook for your course but have opted for alternatives like online homework platforms and codes or fee-based publisher-provided curricular materials, then this would NOT qualify for the “OER: No Textbook to Purchase” attribute.

If those fees fall below the “Low-Cost Textbook” $50 threshold, then the course may be designated with the “Low-Cost Textbook” attribute.

What does the “Low-Cost Textbook” designation mean?

This means these courses have a $50 cost cap or threshold for materials used in those courses, in an effort to make those courses and materials more affordable for students. The cap for “Low-Cost Textbook” at OC will be at or below $50, the official cap set by students.

Note: The $50 cost cap is pre-tax, so you do not have to factor in tax costs.

What does “Low-Cost Textbooks” include?

Included in the $50 cost cap:

  • textbooks and other text-based materials
  • workbooks
  • lab manuals
  • online homework platforms
  • codes for publisher-provided curricular materials.

What does “Low-Cost Textbooks” NOT include?

Excluded from the $50 cost cap:

  • art supplies
  • calculators
  • class fees
  • equipment

What price is used as the basis for textbook pricing?

The $50 threshold is based on the pre-tax retail price and is applied to all class sections regardless of the number of credits offered.

As per SBCTC guidelines, the threshold is based on the price at the campus bookstore or charged by the publisher directly, whichever is lower.

For used, rented, and older editions to be included in the Low-Cost labeling,

  • students should be able to acquire the materials for $50 or less either from the college bookstore or the publisher directly and
  • the college bookstore/the publisher must have sufficient stock for all enrollments.

Prices offered by other third-party vendors such as Amazon.com are not to be considered due to price fluctuation and uncertainty of stock availability.

What about optional costs?

Optional costs should NOT be included in your calculation. For example: You provide students with a link to a free, online version of your materials but give them the option to purchase materials in print. The cost of optional print materials should NOT be included in your calculation, and the course can be listed as an “OER: No Textbook to Purchase” course. However, if you have required your students to buy the print version of an open textbook, you should include that cost in your calculation; if the print version costs less than the “low cost” $50 cap, then that course can be listed as a “Low-Cost Textbook” course.

What about textbooks used in a sequence of courses?

If a text is used across multiple courses in a sequence, DO NOT base your calculation on the cost divided by those courses.

As per SBCTC guidelines, prorating the book cost based on the number of credits or number of sections used is not allowed.

For example: A text that costs $120 that is required for 3 sequenced courses DOES NOT meet the $50 or under label requirement, because:

  • Not all students take all courses in a series
  • Students may take courses over time and may have to pay for edition changes
  • Students must pay the $120 and cannot budget for 3 even payments.

Can I designate courses as having BOTH the “OER: No Textbook to Purchase” and “Low-Cost Textbook” attributes?

No, a course can only be designated as one or the other. Separating the two also allows for the college to track statistics for courses using OER, as well as savings for students. These courses have to be actively designated (i.e. opt-in); all other courses will remain unmarked by default.

If I have chosen to use OER instead of a textbook, do I need to still submit textbook information to the bookstore?

Yes, the OC Bookstore still needs to know about all textbook information, even if that textbook or course materials is OER. This way, they can communicate this information to students. If you are using OER, please include that information -- even if it’s just for a quarter -- in the Notes field in the OC textbook system.

How do students search for courses with “OER” or “Low-Cost Textbooks?

In the Class Schedule search, students can select Course Attribute and select an option. Students can only choose ONE of the options at a time. Course Attribute dropdown menu in the Class Schedule.

Course Attribute dropdown menu in the Class Schedule.


Updated by Erica Coe, 7/7/2020 This work is licensed CC BY by the Olympic College OER Steering Group and is a derivative of this work.