About OER

The Texas Education Code defines OER as “…teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or that have been released under an intellectual property license that allows for free use, reuse, modification, and sharing with others, including full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.” OER textbooks from OpenStax and Open Textbook Library are examples: they are free and have Creative Commons licenses.

Creative Commons logoCreative Commons licensing sets OER apart from commercial textbooks, providing faculty and students the freedom of the 5R’s: retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute. The library’s Creative Commons guide answers practical questions around OER re-use and authoring. As compared to commercial textbooks, OER provide free and unfettered access. Faculty that use OER are free to modify and tailor the content, supporting increased student engagement with curriculum. UTSA Student Government Association cites continuous access to textbooks as key to student success-while at UTSA and beyond. Not only are OER readily available, but they are also continually updated.


UTSA Libraries launched the campus OER effort in 2016, joining as an OpenStax partner. Since then, the library has become a member of the Texas Digital Library and the Open Education Network and maintains a high level of engagement with many other OER communities.

It is significant to note that, while the UTSA Libraries’ foray into OER is fairly recent, it served as a bridge between textbooks and students for many years prior by providing:

  • Textbook access for high impact UTSA courses through reserves purchases 
  • Hathitrust Emergency Temporary Access, leveraging fair use in copyright  
  • Digital reserves 

While we are proud of all of these strategies that support textbook access, our Adopt a Free Textbook grant program is by far the most successful. The program continues to save students millions, provides immediate textbook access, and yields a robust return on investment as shown below.


Grants Awarded 


Student Savings 































2022 13 $25,000 $205,583 $24






As part of the Adopt- a-Free-Textbook program, the library surveys thousands of UTSA students each semester. These students are engaged with OER and rate them as equal to or better than commercial textbooks in studying for tests, content quality, and more.


In 2021, the library received a generous donation from Scott Sawtelle and Kathleen Curry, along with a commitment to support the program for the next 3 years. Sawtelle and Curry initially gave $25,000 as part of a challenge gift during UTSA’s first giving day in 2021.  

Prior to 2012, the UTSA Libraries was the primary funder of the Adopt-a-Free-Textbook grants, earmarking an annual allocation to support the program. We are grateful for additional support in the past from President Taylor Eighmy and Peggy Eighmy and the Office of the Provost, which have encouraged even more OER adoptions than the library could support alone.