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Welcome to the DCTC Library's guide to affordable learning and open educational resources. Here you'll learn how library resources and services can help you, the instructor, to reduce costs for the students in your classes.

This guide will also serve as a gateway to the world of OER. As defined by UNESCO, "Open Educational Resources (OER) are learning, teaching and research materials in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or are under copyright that have been released under an open license, that permit no-cost access, re-use, re-purpose, adaptation and redistribution by others." OER can include syllabi, lesson plans, open textbooks, handouts, tests, and more.


Why should you consider using an open textbook or OER for your course? Consider these findings from a study published in 2020:

  • Since the 2000s, textbook prices have increased at four times the rate of inflation
  • 89% of students experienced increased stress levels due to textbook costs
  • 65% did not buy a required textbook for class due to costs
  • 80% did not have a textbook on the first day of class due to costs
  • 44% did not buy a textbook due to costs, knowing it would hurt performance
  • 27% avoided taking a class due to textbook costs
  • 12% dropped a class due to textbook costs
  • These experiences disproportionately affected nonwhite and first-generation students
  • OER are estimated to have saved students over $1 billion worldwide between 2013 and 2018

Source: Jenkins, JJ, et al. 2020. Textbook Broke: Textbook Affordability as a Social Justice Issue. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2020(1): 3, pp. 1–13. DOI:

Course reserves

What are course reserves and how do they work?

Course reserves are a collection of items that instructors ask us to keep on reserve for students in their courses, hence the name. Instructors decide whether the item may leave the Library and if so, how long it can be borrowed. Any exceptions require your approval. This allows more opportunity for students to access the materials you've selected for your curriculum.

If you have an extra copy of the textbook you've assigned, you can lend it to us and help students who can't afford to purchase their own copy. This also helps in situations where publishers can't deliver enough copies to our Bookstore on time. Sometimes we already have an older edition of the textbook being used. If that's good enough, let us know and we can put that on reserve.

We've put all kinds of items on reserve: DVDs from an instructor's personal collection, anatomical models, clay modeling kits, books from the Library's collection, photocopies of articles, etc. Your imagination is the limit.

How to browse and search for course reserves

You can use the Course Reserve Browser to see which items are on reserve by an instructor, in a department, or for a specific course. If you're looking for a specific item on reserve, you can search our catalog limited to Course Resources.

Items in our catalog that are on reserve will look like this, with a purple Course icon:

If you have any questions or would like to place items on reserve, please contact Melanie Ellston in person, at, or at 651-423-8345.


EBSCO ebooks

EBSCO eBooks

Our EBSCO eBook Collection includes more than 82,000 ebooks that DCTC students can access anywhere, anytime. Most of these titles are part of a subscription, but we can purchase additional titles a la carte. In 2020, for example, the Library worked with our Architectural Technology and Interior Design programs to identify assigned readings and textbooks that were available as ebooks. We were able to provide almost half of the titles used by those programs, which are now available online at no cost to their students.

How do these ebooks worK? Take a look at The Codes Guidebook for Interiors for an example. On campus, you simply click on the full text link to open the ebook, which you can read from beginning to end, or search for relevant keywords, or use the table of contents to jump ahead to a relevant chapter. Off campus users will see a prompt to log in with their StarID before they can access the ebook. Most ebooks allow unlimited simultaneous users, but others have licenses that allow only one or three simultaneous users. If that's a concern, the Library can purchase multiple licenses. Portions of ebooks can be downloaded for offline use, but these really work better with a "live" internet connection.

Please contact Michael Kirby in person, at, or at 651-423-8406 to find out if any of your assigned texts can be made available online at no cost to your students!

Open Textbook Library

Open Textbook Library

The University of Minnesota's Open Textbook Library is a collection of more than 1,400 online textbooks on a wide variety of subjects. Titles are reviewed by college and university faculty for quality and are free to view or download. Their open license allows you to adapt each textbook for your own needs, whether that's removing chapters or adding your own content. And if you or your students prefer print, these can be professionally printed for a fraction of the cost of most textbooks.

Read the FAQ for more information and e-mail for help finding an open textbook that might fit your curriculum.

Other open textbooks

I've noticed some overlap between open textbook collections, but if you don't find what you need in the U of M's Open Textbook Library, you may find it in these:

OpenStax is a free online collection of peer-reviewed, openly licensed textbooks.

Pressbooks Directory
Pressbooks Directory includes more than 6,300 open access books, which are easy to copy, revise, remix, and redistribute using Pressbooks' publishing platform.

With more than 4,000 textbooks including interactive and other advanced features, LibreTexts claims to be the world's most popular online textbook platform.


Kanopy and Swank Digital Campus


Swank Digital Campus

Kanopy and Swank Digital Campus are a la carte collections of videos selected by instructors. If your curriculum includes movies, documentaries, or films of any kind, e-mail to find out if the Library can provide these in a convenient online format at no cost to your students.

Films On Demand

Films On Demand

Films On Demand features over 42,000 streaming educational videos on all subjects. You'll find Ken Burns documentaries, archival WWII footage, Shakespeare's plays, and videos on auto repair, business communication, psychology, and the environment. Videos include transcripts and closed captioning. This is a subscription collection, so if you're looking for a particular video and don't see it here, Kanopy or Swank Digital Campus might be better options.

DVD digitization

If there's a video you'd like your students to view online and we can't stream it through any of the services available to us, Fair Use may allow us to digitize the portion of the DVD that you need. You could then share the video securely via D2L, where only your students can view it. Please e-mail for more information.


Intro to OER

As defined by UNESCO, "Open Educational Resources (OER) are learning, teaching and research materials in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or are under copyright that have been released under an open license, that permit no-cost access, re-use, re-purpose, adaptation and redistribution by others."

OER includes open textbooks (seen earlier) but can also include syllabi, lesson plans, handouts, tests, and more.

Minnesota State OER resources

Open Educational Resources
This Minnesota State guide links to OER resources, learning objects, tools, and other information.

Minnesota State - ASA Connect - Open Educational Resources
Minnesota State's Academic and Student Affairs office provides information about webinars, courses, networking within the OER community, how to store OER, and Z-degrees

SO-OER Coummunity Team
This Minnesota State System Office Team provides news, resources, guides, information about textbook affordability, and more.

Suggested OER

MERLOT provides access to more than 100,000 curated online learning resources including assessment tools, assignments, case studies, online courses, presentations, quizzes/tests, reference materials, syllabi, tutorials, and more.

OASIS is a search tool that helps educators find public domain books, audiobooks, open access books, videos, podcasts, primary sources, textbooks, courses, and more.

OER Commons
OER Commons is a repository of tens of thousands of open educational resources, from case studies and activities to full courses and syllabi. You can limit your search by subject, education level (including career/technical), material type, format, and more.

Opendora is another repository for OER created by Minnesota State faculty and librarians. It includes course content such as textbooks, lecture notes, syllabi, reading lists, and videos.

OER for English and writing