VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Affordable Course Content


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Hillary Miller
Cabell Library, 121-C
(804) 827-0462

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What is Affordable Course Content?

Affordable course content describes any free, low-cost, or openly licensed educational resources that can serve as alternatives to high-cost resources. Affordable course content can include syllabi, course modules, textbooks, videos, tests, journal articles, assessment tools, and any other materials used to support learning.

Library materials can be used as affordable course content, including online subscription resources (e-books, articles, videos, tutorials), items placed on reserve in the library, and primary source materials from Special Collections and Archives.

While affordable course content is free or low-cost, it is not necessarily free of copyright restrictions or terms and conditions, so users must be sure to use and share the content only as permitted or use open educational resources. Open educational resources are free of cost and licensed to be freely used, edited, stored, and distributed.

Why Use Affordable Course Content?

  • Textbook prices have increased at over four times the rate of inflation since 2006 (U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGs. 2016. Covering the Cost.)
  • The average undergraduate at a four-year public university is expected to budget $1,250 for textbooks and supplies in 2016-17. (The College Board. Average Estimated Undergraduate Budgets, 2016-17.)
  • In a survey of students from over 150 campuses, 65% of students reported not purchasing a textbook because of its high price (U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGs. 2014. Fixing the Broken Textbook Market.)
  • In a survey of more than 22,000 Florida college students, students reported that the cost of required textbooks had caused negative impacts on academic performance and time to graduation, including earning a poor grade (37.6%), failing a course (19.8%), and not registering for a course (45.5%). (Florida Virtual Campus. 2016. 2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey.)

Resources at VCU

  • VCU Libraries collections can be used as course materials. 
    • Search the collections for any books you assign, as they might be available as e-books.
    • ​Place copies of course materials in course reserves, such as instructor copies of textbooks for students who may be unable to purchase them.
    • Explore databases in your discipline to find teaching resources, including e-books, online video, images, data, articles, and more.
  • Barnes and Noble @ VCU partners with XanEdu to help faculty create customized print course materials that are made available through the bookstore. Materials can be a combination of openly licensed or copyrighted works--XanEdu helps faculty license permissions for copyrighted content. There is no cost for faculty to use XanEdu. 
    • Visit XanEdu's faculty page for more information.
    • Get started with your printing by requesting customized support or by using the DIY customization platform.
    • Contact VCU's XanEdu representative, Barbara Robinson, at or (706) 540-4593 with questions and printing requests.
  • VCU Technology Services offers access to tools faculty can use to create videos, audio recordings, quizzes, tests, and other interactive teaching resources.
  • has video tutorials on business, software, technology and creative skills and can be used to supplement online and classroom instruction. Lynda is available to all VCU students, faculty, and staff.