VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Affordable Course Content

Open Educational Resources Librarian

Jessica Kirschner's picture
Jessica Kirschner
(804) 828-2105
Cabell Library, Room 121-U

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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. ‚ÄčZero Textbook Cost is commonly used to refer to the subset of affordable course materials which are freely available to students.

Most affordable course content still retains traditional copyright licensing, including restrictions on how a resource can be used or shared.  The exception is open educational resources, which are free of cost and most copyright restrictions, allowing them to be freely used, edited, stored, and distributed.

Top Tips to Lower Textbook Costs

  • Adopt open, free, or low cost course content.
  • Search the libraries' collections for any books you assign, as they might be available as e-books.
  • Place copies of course materials, like instructor copies of textbooks, in course reserves for students who may be unable to purchase them.
  • Explore library databases to find course materials, including e-books, online video, images, data, articles, and more.
  • Get your textbook adoptions to the bookstore as soon as possible. The earlier the bookstore has this information, the more used copies they can make available for students. The VCU Textbook Adoptions Policy sets the adoption deadlines:
    • Fall semester adoptions by April 1
    • Spring semester adoptions by October 15
    • Summer session adoptions by March 1
    • In the case of a late appointment of a course instructor, as soon as practical
  • Create a customized course pack instead of using a whole textbook. Barnes and Noble @ VCU partners with XanEdu to help faculty create customized print course materials. 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.