Free-to-Use Course Materials

The cost of a textbook can be a barrier to student success. Western Michigan University Libraries offers a variety of alternatives for instructors who would like to stop using commercial textbooks for their courses. If you need help finding free-to-use materials for a course, contact your subject librarian or our open educational resources librarian Michele Behr.

Open educational resources (OER)

OER includes everything from images and videos to individual lessons and tutorials to complete course textbooks. These materials are openly licensed and can be freely used or adapted. Learn more about OER at WMU.


WMU Libraries provides free access to tens of thousands of e-books. E-books can work well as course texts or supplementary readings, either in part or whole. If you find an e-book you would like to use for your course, check with your subject librarian to make sure we will have access to the book for the semester you plan to use it.

Find our e-books through Library Search by selecting “Books and Media” and using the  “Full Text Online” filter in search results.

If you are not able to locate an e-book on a topic you need, contact your subject librarian to see if there may be an e-book available for your course that the Libraries can purchase.

Video of How to Find an E-book

Journal articles and book chapters

Make journal articles and books available online for your students through Course Reserves. Once you select the materials, we will create your course reserve and link it directly in Elearning. This can function like an electronic course pack available for free to students.

Copyright restrictions may apply. Check with your subject librarian to discuss your options for putting materials on reserve.

Streaming videos

The Libraries provides access to several streaming video collections, which are licensed for use in your classes. You may use entire titles within these collections or create playlists of compiled sections from a variety of videos.

Find our streaming videos through Library Search by selecting “Books and Media” and using the “Video” filter in search results. You can also search by individual streaming video database.

Video of How to find a streaming video

Other benefits

Besides being free for students and instructors to use in WMU courses, other benefits of using these resources include:

  • Every student has access from day one. No delays due to shipping or financial aid.
  • Online content is easy to use and available from any internet-capable device.
  • All e-books, streaming videos and course reserve items are accessible and can be used with screen readers. Many open educational resources are designed with digital accessibility in mind, but OER is not universally accessible.
  • You don't have to worry about copyright infringement. Any materials accessed through University Libraries are open access or licensed for educational use, or we take care of the required copyright licenses.
  • Instructors can tailor course materials to meet their teaching needs and help students learn.