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Textbook Alternatives


There are a number of reasons why you may want to think about alternatives to the textbook you usually use. These may include:

  • Cost: The rising cost of textbooks and related online publisher content is often an insurmountable barrier to our students.
  • Content fit: Textbooks may provide useful content in one area of the course but not others, or provide too much information outside the scope of the class. 
  • Content organization: Textbooks may present concepts in ways that are confusing to students or that don’t reflect the course structure.

Using open textbooks, articles, videos, podcasts, and other media to replace or supplement your textbooks can engage students and ease their financial burden. This guide is intended to provide information and some available resources for incorporating alternative texts into your course.

Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources (OER) are resources shared among educators with open use licenses.  OER can be whole courses, textbooks or just sections of text that can be used in your own courses or as alternatives to publisher content. More information and resources for finding OER content can be found through this link.

Library Content

Librarians are available to help in finding relevant content and in developing reading and viewing lists.

  • Curated lists and links of online journal, magazine, and newspaper articles
  • Streaming video content
  • Course reserves for physical books, articles, and media

Free Open License Media

Open license media (images, music, and video) can be used as content for your courses and also by students for class projects.

Faculty Examples 

See how colleagues are using alternatives to textbooks in their courses. 

Jeffrey McCully, full-time Sociology faculty: 

"I created an online text for each of the courses I teach: SOC-101 (General Sociology), SOC-102 (Marriage and Family), SOC-204 (Sociology of Contemporary Social Problems), and SOC-215 (Sociology of Sex and Gender). This ensures students are exposed to the appropriate conceptual material that provides a solid foundation for understanding sociology and will be expected of them if they take additional sociology courses at a transfer school. I don't use a traditional textbook in any of my classes. I believe they are too expensive, and students are not always able to sell them back, especially old editions. Furthermore, a lot of the conceptual material in textbooks is already freely available online. Using my online texts, students get all of the same material they would find in a textbook without the cost and material waste." 

Example material from the SOC 204 online text

Mike McGuire, full-time Communications faculty:

"The one thing that I say to my students on the first day of class that garners the most enthusiastic response is that they do not have to buy a textbook for the course. Sometimes they actually cheer at this announcement. I then go on to explain that, instead, have provided a 'free, online, interactive textbook created specifically for them.' This resource for my composition courses is otherwise known as Composition Flipped."

Information about Composition Flipped

Michael Renehan, full-time Intensive English Language faculty

"In IEL096 Advanced Intensive Reading, an academic reading preparation course course designed for non-native speakers of English, Moraine Valley Library and IELP Reading faculty collaborate to use the library's databases such as MasUltra, Academic Search Complete, The Chicago Tribune, and CQ Issues Researcher as the basis for course readings. In this library-centered reading course, students learn to locate, evaluate, annotate, outline, summarize, cite, and critique authentic academic texts."

"In order to study vocabulary, students copy and paste difficult text from database articles into a vocabulary profiler, which identifies Academic Word List vocabulary words, which are then posted websites such as Quizlet and QuizletLive for study, gamification, and assessment."