Course Materials

Last Updated: December 22, 2021 - 2:44 pm

The shift to remote teaching highlights the importance of access to course materials and its impact on students' ability to engage fully in their classes. Issues with student access to course materials are exacerbated in this largely remote learning environment, ranging from greater financial stress to shipping time delays.  As you prepare your courses, please prioritize the selection and ordering of course materials.

Northwestern strongly encourages the use of digital materials whenever possible, as this format is less costly and removes shipping challenges.

As you plan for your courses, please take the following steps to secure access and availability of course materials for your students:

Choose digital course materials when possible

Given the conditions created by COVID-19, textbook shipping times are unpredictable. During Spring Quarter 2020 some shipments took up to five weeks, and with first-year students registering five days before the start of the quarter, choosing course materials that are available digitally is key to increasing the likelihood that all students have access to them on the first day.  

Place course material information in CAESAR before registration opens

To give students ample time to review their required course materials and make decisions regarding purchasing, course materials must be entered into the required course materials field in CAESAR prior to registration opening each term. If you have no required course materials, be sure to put “None” in that field. This will ensure that students have their course information when they register for the fall classes and give them enough time to secure course materials.

Utilize the Libraries for course materials

The Libraries provide access to electronic course reserves, alternative course packs, and when available, e-book access for your entire class. Contact the Libraries at to inquire about course materials, or visit the Libraries website for service updates.

 Physical (book) course reserves may not be available, so it is important to contact your librarian with your course material information as soon as possible. They can assist you in locating your assigned course materials or work with you to find digital alternatives. Visit the Course Materials at the Libraries page for detailed information on services and support. 


Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 course reserves were online only. The Libraries may be able to purchase an e-book version of your assigned textbook for your students to access via the Libraries catalog. If the text is not available as an e-book, a subject librarian can work with you to find alternative digital materials. Email: to inquire about your assigned course materials.

It is important to note that the following major publishers do not provide institutional licenses to e-books and thus cannot be purchased for students to access via the Libraries: Pearson, Cengage, Houghton, McGraw-Hill, and Oxford University Press (textbook division).

Course reserves and alternative course packs

  • The Libraries can digitize book chapters and articles from physical journals or newspapers and make them available in your Canvas course. Place your request via the Course Reserve link in Canvas. In consideration of the fair use exception to U.S. copyright law, we can place limited portions of a work on eReserve.
  • Streaming audio and video. Place your requests via the Course Reserve link in Canvas. Email or call 847-491-7681 with questions.
  •  Link digital resources, such as e-books or online articles, directly to your Canvas course. This video explains how.
Open Educational Resources (OER) at Northwestern

Open Educational Resources (OER) are free teaching materials (such as textbooks, presentations, and test banks) that are intended to be widely distributed and modified to fit the particular needs of instructors.

Interested in exploring free, digital, and adaptable course materials for your course? Want to see an OER created by a Northwestern faculty member? The Libraries launched a new website dedicated to helping faculty and instructors find and use OER in their courses. Visit the site to get started.

To begin exploring OER, consider the following resources:

  • Open Textbook Library: managed by the Open Education Consortium (of which Northwestern is a member), the Open Textbook Library is a collection of hundreds of faculty-reviewed textbooks that have been used in at least two higher education institutions.
  • OASIS: An OER search tool with full textbooks, modules, homework sets, A/V materials, and more
  • How to Adopt an Open Textbook: Guide created by Northwestern librarians.
 Place textbook orders with the bookstore

Place your orders using Faculty Enlight. When available, make sure you select "e-book" as the format to avoid the potential for delayed shipping to students. New this quarter: on-campus students will have the option of picking their pre-ordered books up from the Northwestern Bookstore.  

Additional support resources

The Affordable Instructional Resources (AIR) group is happy to meet with you to discuss your options and answer questions about finding digital and/or affordable course materials. You can reach an AIR member at or learn more about our services and support at