Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the purpose of the CA-OER Council?

The Council was created and funded by the State of California to create, review, disseminate, and publicize free or low-cost open access textbooks, on behalf of the Intersegmental Council of Academic Senates. The State Legislature directed the public higher education systems in the state to create an online library with open educational resources and textbooks in order to increase faculty adoption of high quality, affordable or free materials to save students money. Matching funds (per the legislation) from the Hewlett and Gates Foundations were acquired in 2013. Also at the conclusion of 2013, ICAS established the Council's duties, appointed members from each of the three segments (CCC, CSU, UC), and appointed a non-voting chair/project coordinator. The Council began meeting in January 2014 and continues meeting twice each month (except June-August).

Since the signing of AB 798 (Bonilla, 2015), the California OER Council has shifted its focus to support CCC and CSU proposals for AB 798 funding.

The goal of College Textbook Affordability Act of 2015 (AB 798) is to save college students money by empowering professors and local campuses to adopt high quality, free and open educational resources for course materials. Assemblywoman Bonilla (sponsor of AB 798) recognized that free and open educational resources can reduce the total cost of education for students and their families in California's higher education institutions.

This Request for Proposals (RFP) provides the guidelines, requirements and processes for campuses to submit proposals for their local textbook affordability programs and receive up to $50,000 to implement their program and report on the student savings created by their program.

The CA OER Council has been instrumental in identifying 50 courses common to the 3 California higher education systems, identified many free and open etextbooks that faculty could use as course materials for these courses, implemented a rigorous faculty review process for evaluating the quality of the free and open etextbooks, and engaged in a variety of research and policy development to support the adoption of free and open textbooks in California higher education. (See the Council's progress reports.)

Free webinars, open office hours, and comments on preliminary drafts of proposals will be offered by the California OER Council through June 30, 2016, the due date of the AB 798 proposals. For more information about the RFP process see

See: California OER Council, Duties of the CA-OER Council, and Progress Reports


2. How was CA-OER Council started? Who funds this project?

To establish the California OER Council and COOL4Ed, Senate Bills apportioned funding and directed the California State University, Office of the Chancellor to seek private funds to match the State budget. The CSU, directed to administer the funds, was awarded grants in Fall 2013 by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Gates Foundation to match the State of California’s funding, mandated by SB 1052 and SB 1053.


3. What are OER textbooks?

See the OER Glossary 


4. How can one find quality OER textbooks?

COOL4Ed serves as a pivotal clearing house with peer reviews by faculty from the CCC, CSU, and UC. Other sites include:


5. What is COOL4Ed?

It is an online repository that helps faculty find, adopt, utilize, and/or modify OER course materials for little or no cost. It also includes e-portfolios that demonstrate how faculty in the CCC, CSU, and UC have adopted these OER textbooks. California Legislature Senate Bill 1053 called for the creation of the California Digital Open Source Library to leverage its existing online open library of OER – MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching, and its Affordable Learning Solutions initiative (


6. Do open educational materials undergo the same stringent peer review?

Absolutely. In COOL4Ed, see the Reviewer, Textbook, and Course Selection at the conclusion of the page. The Council created a rigorous peer review process to ensure that the OER textbooks reviewed for 50 highly-enrolled courses across the CCC, CSU, and UC segments are high-quality. Some OER clearing houses offer reviews of OER textbooks; however, the Council has developed a peer review rubric that is consistent with peer review gold standards. An added bonus for those textbooks peer reviewed in COOL4Ed is that they have been reviewed specifically by faculty who have taught in the CCC, UC, and/or CSU. (Reviewers' institutional affiliation is appended to each review to help faculty decide if the OER textbook is appropriate for his/her student body.)


7. Does this effort amount to a mandate to change curricula/learning materials?

No. The Council will not and cannot mandate adoption, but it does seek to increase awareness of available high-quality, low-cost open educational materials. See the Duties of the CA-OER Council.


8. Which textbooks are you currently considering?

See the textbooks that have been reviewed:

See the list of textbooks and courses to be reviewed through September 2015.


9. How do I recommend a textbook for consideration? - CLOSED

Please submit this form to recommend a textbook for review. The OER textbook should be CC-BY, low-cost, up-to-date, and accessible through a public platform.


10. How do I participate in the peer review phase of textbooks? - CLOSED

You can contribute to expert review panels; you can test available textbooks in your classes; and you can participate in focus groups by filling out the faculty survey and indicating your willingness to become a peer reviewer.

Also see how to become a reviewer by visiting the Cool4Ed Reviews page (scroll down to bottom of page and see #5):

This project concluded in May 2016. See COOL4Ed for information about the subsequent project, AB 798 (Bonilla).