Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Open Educational Resources Incentive Program

Open Textbook Incentive Program 2023-25

The high cost of textbooks is one of the factors that affects student learning outcomes and student success.  Students avoid certain classes, drop a class, or do poorly when they cannot afford the text for a course.  

The Open Textbook Faculty Incentive Program supports undergraduate students by creating incentives for teaching faculty to develop alternative lower-cost educational materials rather than high-cost textbooks. Open Educational Resources (OER) are “teaching, learning, and research resources that are free of cost and access barriers, and which also carry legal permission for open use. Generally, this permission is granted by use of an open license (for example, Creative Commons licenses) which allows anyone to freely use, adapt and share the resource—anytime, anywhere" (SPARC).

Sponsored by the University Library and Office of the Provost, the library is pleased to announce a new round of OER funding for 2023-25. Tenure-line and specialized faculty teaching undergraduates are eligible to submit proposals for the creation of open textbooks for adoption in their courses. (Select academic professionals may also apply with a letter of support from their unit head.) Selected authors will be part of a cohort who will participate in spring workshops targeted towards relevant topics such as copyright and accessibility as they begin their work.

Interested instructors/authors will be required to submit a proposal (see below for additional details).

The deadline for 2023-2024 applications has passed. The next round of applications will be announced later in 2024.

Eligible Projects and Expected Outcomes

The award will provide up to $6,000 per proposal for a new openly licensed textbook. In unusual cases, if a book serves multiple large-enrollment courses in a sequence and has at least two authors, then the award may be up to $10,000. The exact amount of funding may depend on the nature of the project and the extent of work to be done. The award will be distributed in two payments according to the award timeline below. 

The resulting textbook should meet the following criteria:

  • It replaces a paid textbook option typically used to teach the course, or fills a gap where there is no sufficient existing textbook;
  • It must be originally authored by the local instructor(s), with the exception that up to 25% of the content may be adapted from existing OER with an appropriate license allowing reuse, or with the exception of figures or other content used as examples (in the public domain, used by permission, or under fair use documented by the author), and appropriate attributions for all third party content;
  • It will be openly licensed using a Creative Commons license that allows for derivatives.
  • A draft of the full book, or a substantial portion (over 50%), will be tested by the author(s) in the Fall 2024 semester (or in the Spring 2025 semester, for the full draft only). The authors will have a full revision ready no later than June 10, 2025. 

Additionally, the textbook will generally fall into one of two publication categories:

  1. Typical textbooks consisting of chapter-by-chapter text and media (including figures, video, and audio) are expected to be published in Pressbook through the library-based press, the Illinois Open Publishing Network (IOPN). Authors in this group will receive training on Pressbooks and they will work with the press staff to move the publication through the final publication steps after completion of the revision. (See: What kind of textbook content can I create in Pressbooks?)
  2. Textbooks needing specialized technical solutions (for example, a programming textbook built in GitHub Pages in order to have built-in Jupyter notebooks, or by creating a Jupyter Book). Proposals for such textbooks should clearly outline the authors’ technical ability to produce such textbooks in the proposed platform, explain why the solution is necessary for the particular content, and address how the platform is stable and likely to maintain the viability of the title for at least five years. These textbooks will be web archived by the library to the extent web archiving is viable for the content.

Selected awardees will sign an MOU outlining these expectations as well as agreement for participation in the activities described in the award timeline.

Award and Project Timeline

  1. Early Spring 2024: Decisions made and selected authors are notified. Authors sign MOU related to award expectations and timeline.
  2. Spring 2024: Authors attend required workshops on copyright and accessibility. Authors who will be using Pressbooks attend workshop on use of Pressbooks. Authors using other technical solutions will have an advanced accessibility consultation to identify and address special issues related to their content.
  3. Late Spring 2024: First half of award amount is distributed after completion of workshops.
  4. Spring/Summer 2024: Author(s) work on drafting content.
  5. Fall 2024 or Spring 2025: Author(s) test a full draft of the content with at least one section of the course it is designed for.
  6. Spring and early Summer 2025: Authors revise content and submit revision by June 10, 2025.
  7. Second half of award amount distributed after submission of final revision.
  8. [IOPN Pressbooks Titles only] Summer/Fall 2025: Authors work with IOPN staff to take the textbook through the final publication process including copyediting, technical/accessibility check, and final proof prior to publication and registration with an ISBN and DOI.
  9. [Alternate Technical Solutions only] Summer/Fall 2025: Authors work with recommended campus staff to complete an accessibility audit of the site and address issues that are identified.
  10. Fall 2024/Spring 2025 and AY 2025-26: Awardees will work with members of the library to assess student response to the textbook in their courses (for example by distributing end-of-the semester feedback surveys).

Throughout the timeline, authors can draw on experts from the University Library and partners at DRES and CITL on issues related to copyright, accessibility, use of Pressbooks, and (if needed) audiovisual production.

OER award funding will be transferred from the Library to a departmental CFOP, and from there they may be used at the recipient’s discretion, including for summer salary to work on the project, student assistants, or other project expenses. In select instances, the second half of the award may be released earlier if the author(s) clearly document its use for hiring a student assistant for the project or other necessary project expense, with timing dependent on the nature of the expense.

Components of Proposal

  • Name of Instructor(s)/Author(s)
  • Position Title/Rank for each Instructor/Author
  • Department and School/College for each Instructor/Author
  • Contact Information (email and phone) of Primary Contact
  • Intended Course Number and Title
  • Current textbook(s) and costs for the intended course; number of students per section; number of total course sections for the course in a semester and year. 
    • What is the potential saving to students in this course if you use alternative open material?
  • Anticipated approximate length of final textbook (estimated word count).
  • If this proposal relates to a course that currently has no suitable textbook, please explain why no suitable textbook exists (up to 250 words).
  • Narrative rationale for textbook.  (500 -750 words) 
    • Please describe the rationale for the scope of the textbook and its audience, and provide an overview of its intended organization.  
    • Describe the readiness of the authors to complete the project on the award timeline. This can include expertise but also ways in which the textbook will draw on existing draft notes or existing partially completed content. Textbooks the author has already begun drafting are eligible, but it should be clear in the narrative what work has already been done and what remains.
    • Describe how students will access and use this material, including which of the two production options (Pressbooks or alternate technical solution) you anticipate using for the book. For alternate technical solutions, be sure to explain why the solution is necessary and the expertise the author team has to create the content using that method, how you will ensure the long-term utility for yourself and the university, and how you will ensure accessibility (in terms of ADA compliance) of the title.
  • Describe how you will assess the effectiveness of the open access textbook/ materials in your course. (up to 250 words)

Proposal Deadline and Submission

The deadline for submission of proposals will be November 15, 2023. Proposals will be reviewed by a committee of faculty, librarians, and administrators. Selected awardees will be notified in January 2025. Email proposals to the Scholarly Communication and Publishing unit of the University Library at

Questions and expressions of interest may be sent to the same address.