UT Open Textbook/OER Grant Program


In the last decade, the cost of college textbooks in the U.S. increased by 82%, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The current cost of some textbooks can range from as much as $200 to $400. As a result, textbook purchases are a major concern for students and families. To address these concerns, the Division of Student Life, with the Student Government Association, will provide funds to faculty and instructors who adopt or adapt open educational resources (OERs) in their courses. The University Libraries will administer the program with the help of the Libraries’ Open Education Working Group, whose members include the Libraries, Office of Information Technology, and Teaching and Learning Innovation, among others.

To be “open,” an educational resource must be openly licensed. Open licenses make a resource open and available to everyone, everywhere, with no restrictions. (Differences between openly-licensed textbooks and low-cost, but not open, textbooks may be found on the Faculty Choice page of UT Libraries’ Open Education Portal.) Open educational resources do more than just save students money — OERs can benefit both learners and instructors. OERs, and open textbooks in particular, give instructors more freedom and choice in teaching. OERs also mirror the purpose of land-grant institutions, such as UT.

The Open Textbook/OER Grant Program is intended to help incentivize adoptions and adaptations of OERs–and free, openly-licensed textbooks in particular–in order to both save students money and improve the teaching and learning experiences of both instructors and students. Instructors are eligible to receive awards of up to $2,500 to adopt or adapt an existing open textbook or other OER for a course. Funds acknowledge the time and effort involved in adapting existing course materials, and funded projects may receive additional support from the Libraries and/or OIT for the transition. (Instructors interested in creating an open textbook are encouraged to contact the Scholars’ Collaborative in the UT Libraries to discuss what resources exist to support the project.)

Funds may be awarded to an individual instructor or a team of instructors teaching multiple sections of the same course. A proposed project may include:

  • The use or adaptation of an existing open access textbook (see the Open Textbook page in UT’s Open Education Portal)
  • The use or adaptation of Open Educational Resources (OER), media, and/or faculty-authored materials

Call for Proposals

Proposals for the 2021-22 will be considered until project funds are depleted. Interested faculty may submit proposals via this Google form: https://forms.gle/r58iM4kA16z6Lwcs9. (Note: The form requires you to login with your UT NetID). Proposals are reviewed in the order in which they are received.

Before submitting a proposal, proposal authors must attend a grant information session (online or in-person), to be scheduled with members of the Open Education Working Group. Send an email to the Scholars’ Collaborative in the Libraries (scholarsco@utk.edu) to schedule the session.

Proposal Requirements

Any UT employee who teaches a credit-bearing course at UT Knoxville may apply for an award. The award may be used to adopt or adapt an open textbook or other OER in a course or section that has not previously adopted an open textbook or other OER. Instructors interested in creating an open textbook, or adapting a previously adopted open textbook, are encouraged to contact the Scholars’ Collaborative (scholarsco@utk.edu) in the UT Libraries to discuss the project in more detail.

The proposal form (https://forms.gle/r58iM4kA16z6Lwcs9) asks for the following:

  • Name, college, and UT classification (e.g., Assistant Professor) of applicant(s)
  • Course information, including course name, number, section(s), enrollment, semester(s) offered
  • Information on the textbook/educational resources currently in use (such as lecture presentations, animated videos, learning exercises, assessments, diagrams, etc.) that will be replaced by an OER, including the title, publisher, cost, and description of the current textbook or other educational resources
  • Timeline for implementation of the OER in the course
  • For adapted or new OER, the open license that will be attached to the OER and the open repository where you plan to share it
  • Narrative (1 page maximum) to address:
    1. Plans for replacing the textbook or other resources currently used in the course (Will you use an existing open textbook, adopt an open textbook, gather resources, or develop materials?)
    2. How you will obtain copyright permissions for your resource(s)
    3. The format(s) to be used (e.g., PDF, e-book, video, etc.)
    4. How students will access the open/alternative resource(s)
    5. If adapting or creating OER, plans for sharing the textbook or other OER. (Note that an expectation of this funding is that any adapted or new OER will be shared beyond UT.)
    6. How the resources will help engage students in the learning process
    7. Anticipated outcomes for teaching and learning

Selection Criteria

Winning proposals will be reviewed for:

  • Strength of application
  • Potential savings to UT students
  • Implementation schedule (The OER should be implemented in the next 1-3 semesters)
  • Sustainability of the resource beyond the initial use
  • Willingness or ability to license the resource for adaptation and re-use by others
  • Accessibility and usability of the resource for all students

Other criteria, including feasibility of the project, will also be considered.

Support Provided to Grantees

All grantees will receive the following:

  • Funding
  • Orientation workshop
  • Creative Commons license support
  • Copyright guidance
  • Access to a stable repository platform for distributing resources

Depending on the proposal and funding level, grantees may be eligible for the following support, provided by OIT and the Libraries:

  • Assistance modifying existing OER
  • Services of liaison librarians
  • Services of instructional designers

Progress and Final Reports

Authors of successful proposals are required to submit two short reports that outline progress in the two semesters following fund dispersal, to include:

  • reflections on the grantee’s experience implementing their open textbook or other OER
  • teaching and learning outcomes used for the project
  • evaluation of the OER in meeting those outcomes

Changes to this report format may be allowed if the OER project involves creating new OER or to accommodate other circumstances. Requests for such changes should be sent to the UT Libraries’ Open Education Working Group. Reports will be due approximately one month after each semester. See the Guidebook on Open Educational Resources Adoption for additional guidance.

Additionally, authors of successful proposals will meet with the UT Libraries’ Open Education Working Group to compare experiences, share findings, and make recommendations for future iterations of this program.

Grant Disbursement

Funded proposals will be disbursed in two payments. Half of the award will be distributed at the beginning of the project and the remainder at the completion of the project.


For more information, contact Rachel Caldwell in the Scholars’ Collaborative of the Libraries (rachelcaldwell@utk.edu or 974-6107), or contact any member of the Open Education Working Group.


This documentation is closely based on similar work done by Kansas State University Libraries’ Center for the Advancement of Digital Scholarship and the University of Oklahoma Libraries.

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