Helping educators determine the quality of open educational resources

Open vs. traditional textbooks

Open educational resources (OER) can save students hundreds of dollars, but are they equal in quality to high priced textbooks from traditional publishers? If a book is free, will it have undergone to the same academic or editorial review as a high priced textbook? Increasingly, the answer is yes. There are many new resources and tools designed to help faculty find high quality, peer reviewed OER.

Do you get what you pay for?

One question to consider: Do traditional textbook publishers truly produce a superior product? Publishers argue that high textbook prices are necessary to cover their costs for peer review, editorial development, and top quality production values.  However, new editions frequently come out with even higher prices but with very little new content to justify the higher cost.  Traditional publishers are driven by the bottom line and many new editions are produced simply in order to generate sales.  Instead of buying a used copy at a substantial discount, a student buys the “new” edition at full price and the publisher reaps the profit.

OER alternatives

Open Educational Resources can be a great alternative to high priced textbooks.  Read this CNN article for a great overview of new developments and how free resources really can work in the classroom.  But do free resources really meet the same quality standards as traditional textbooks? Yes! Many of them are peer reviewed and carefully developed by educators. The OER Commons includes a new tool which allows educators to rate the quality of OER with seven rubrics.  Check out this video  for a tour of the tool and the rubrics.

MERLOT II includes over 4,000 in-depth peer reviews and allows users to search for materials with peer reviews, editor reviews, and user ratings.  Other sites such as College Open Textbooks include lists of peer reviews divided by subject area.

Where to find peer reviewed OERs

June 2014 OER Round-Up

Our round-up posts will feature a smattering of recent items that relate to Open Educational Resources. Please tell us if you’ve come across other items worth sharing in the comments!

New OER Projects:

Open-Policy-Network-600 (1)

  • Open Policy NetworkThe mission of the Open Policy Network is to foster the creation, adoption and implementation of open policies and practices that advance the public good by supporting open policy advocates, organizations and policy makers, connecting open policy opportunities with assistance, and sharing open policy information. Check out their upcoming Institute for Open Leadership (applications for Cohort 1 are due June 30!).

Recent Publications on OER Topics:

Upcoming Conferences:

  • June 9-10, 2014: OER Annotation Summit / #oerannoThis meeting is one of a series planned to explore opportunities and barriers to fostering greater collaboration in solving shared technology challenges for open education (OER) projects. This particular meeting will focus on annotation and metadata challenges and solutions for OER, especially with an eye toward integrating tools that allow for more distributed and participatory mark-up. 
  • July 25-27, 2014: OpenEdJam / @openedjam / #OEJ14a 3-day international event that brings together activists, developers, educators, engineers, librarians, and makers from all fields.
  • November 15-17, 2014: OPENCON / @open_conStudent and Early Career Researcher Conference on Open Access, Open Education and Open Data.

Upcoming Classes:

  • Fall 2014: Open Knowledge: Changing the Global Course of Learning Open source, open science, open data, open access, open education, open learning — this course provides an introduction to the important concept of openness from a variety of perspectives, including education, publishing, librarianship, economics, politics, and more, and asks you to discover what it means to you.

Come Work with Us! Scholarly Communications Librarian @ CUNY

Big news for open access supporters and excellent librarians eager for a new adventure: CUNY is hiring a Scholarly Communications Librarian!

CUNY is the largest urban public university in the United States, and its faculty, staff, and students produce extraordinary (in quantity and quality) scholarly, creative, and educational works. We need you to help us make those works open access! (Curious about the open access efforts and scholarly communication projects already underway at CUNY? Prowl around this blog, the Open Educational Resources @ CUNY blog, and the Just Publics @ 365 blog.)

The Scholarly Communications Librarian won’t work for a specific CUNY campus but rather for the central Office of Library Services, which supports all CUNY libraries. The person who gets this job will be responsible for developing and managing CUNY’s new open access institutional repository and leading related educational/outreach efforts.

We hope you’ll consider applying for this new and exciting position. But don’t mull it over too long — the closing date is June 28!

The full posting is below.  (Note: The language under “General Duties” is standardized for all University Library Systems Manager positions. Look under “Campus Specific Information” for the details specific to this position.)

Job Title: Scholarly Communications Librarian (University Library Systems Manager)
Job ID: 10829
Location: Central Office
Full/Part Time: Full-Time
Regular/Temporary: Regular
Contract Title: Higher Education Associate
FLSA Exempt


Manages one or more aspects of the University’s Library technology and systems.

  • Analyzes, specifies, and implements systems improvements and processes
  • Conducts design and setup activities supporting University-wide Library systems and databases; assists in implementing upgrades and new systems
  • Develops and manages procedures related to quality assurance for University Library systems; revises and maintains complex configuration tables
  • Monitors Library applications and databases
  • Creates, prepares, and analyzes reports on systems activities
  • Works collaboratively with the Office of Library Services, Computer Information Services, library staffs, and vendors to refine workflows and develop useful systems tools
  • Performs related duties as assigned


The Office of Library Services (OLS) at the Central Administrative Office of CUNY supports the libraries at the University’s 24 campuses to coordinate and enhance library services for students and faculty in partnership with campus librarians. The Office provides the CUNY+ online catalog, negotiates University-wide contracts and licenses, provides central cataloging services, and subsidizes the CUNY Digital Library Collection and resource sharing. The Office seeks a Scholarly Communications Librarian to provide leadership for scholarly communication and digitization initiatives at CUNY. Scholarly communication is a strategic priority for CUNY.

The position reports to the University Director of Library Systems and is responsible for managing and developing the newly instituted Digital Commons institutional repository (a cloud-based solution from bepress) of scholarly and creative works, publications, and digital objects by members of the CUNY community. The librarian will organize, oversee, and assess the processes (e.g., faculty outreach, copyright compliance) related to the repository’s maintenance and development. S/he will collaborate with the vendor and CUNY-wide libraries to create, develop, and optimize publishing/ingest workflows, establish/codify best practices in repository management including reporting and optimizing metadata management related to the CUNY’s nascent repository. The Scholarly Communications Librarian establishes communication procedures and platforms for campuses to use to work with contributing authors (faculty, staff, students, alumni). The librarian leads education and outreach to faculty and provides guidance to library colleagues and others on issues relevant to the dynamic scholarly publishing landscape, including author rights, open access (OA) publishing, and alternative publishing trends related to tenure and promotion. The position also serves as the Office of Library Services’ primary resource on copyright compliance, fair use, and other copyright issues pertinent to CUNY library collections and services. Provides supervision for planning and implementing digitization projects in alignment with the library’s mission and strategic goals. Collaborates with liaison librarians to provide tools and educational opportunities in the adoption of best practices in scholarly communication relevant to CUNY’s academic mission.


Bachelor’s Degree and six years’ related experience required; MLS degree and/or Master’s in a related field may be substituted for a portion of the experience requirement.


The ideal candidate will have the following skills, knowledge, and abilities:

  • Master’s degree from an American Library Association (ALA)-accredited school is strongly preferred and may be accepted for up to two years of the required six years of experience
  • Three years’ experience managing library information services, systems, and/or programs required
  • Working knowledge of digitization standards and formats, rights management and academic publishing practices, including familiarity with one or more major descriptive metadata standards (Dublin Core, EAD, METS, MIX, MODS, PREMIS, or others); demonstrated project management skills to plan, implement, and assess digital initiative
  • Demonstrated understanding of the width and breadth of information and information-seeking processes to structure and deliver library services for users; ability to apply requirements, best practices, and guidelines for scholarly communication relevant to CUNY Libraries’ digital initiatives and processes
  • Marketing and outreach skills to discover and recruit institutional scholarly input, research data, and other content for inclusion in the institutional repository; ability to participate in grant and other external funding opportunities in support of the library’s mission and strategic goals
  • Ability to communicate scholarly communication issues in a balanced way that can be adjusted to a wide range of audiences across the disciplines and work collaboratively and effectively with diverse groups
  • Detail oriented and accurate with strong organizational skills to establish plans, manage multiple assignments and conflicting priorities, and meet deadlines
  • Excellent verbal/written communication and interpersonal skills with strong consultation, presentation, and group facilitation skills
  • Proficiency using academic, administrative, and financial computer programs, systems, and databases


Commensurate with qualifications and experience.


CUNY offers a comprehensive benefits package to employees and eligible dependents based on job title and classification. Employees are also offered pension and Tax-Deferred Savings Plans. Part-time employees must meet a weekly or semester work hour criteria to be eligible for health benefits. Health benefits are also extended to retirees who meet the eligibility criteria.


For full consideration, submit a position focused cover letter and résumé with your online application. Your cover letter should clearly explain how your experience and credentials fulfill the duties and qualifications outlined. The direct link to the job opening from external sources is:

(The full address for the direct link is:




CUNY Job Posting: Managerial/Professional


We are committed to enhancing our diverse academic community by actively encouraging people with disabilities, minorities, veterans, and women to apply. We take pride in our pluralistic community and continue to seek excellence through diversity and inclusion. EO/AA Employer.