Open Social Work Education (OSWE) is a collaborative project dedicated to open educational resources (OER) in social work. By spreading the creation and adoption of OER, we will:

  • Eliminate textbook cost barriers to social work knowledge, particularly for groups historically underrepresented in higher education

  • Improve the quality of educational resources through open sharing and revision of instructional materials

  • Build a commons of social work knowledge owned and sustained by the community of social work scholars

Open by 2025

Open Social Work Education has an ambitious goal—turn the core curriculum of social work open by 2025. What does this mean?

For each undergraduate and graduate course within the four core domains of social work (policy, research, theory, and practice) OSWE will facilitate the publishing of peer-reviewed open textbooks with openly licensed ancillary materials and help programs adopt these materials for their courses.  Our initiatives, outlined below, support this goal.

Learn more about the Open by 2025 initiative here.


Our Open Initiatives

Interested in staying up to date on our open initiatives? Join our mailing list.


Open Textbooks

In August 2018, we published the first open textbook in social work education which was adopted at five US and six international campuses, saving students over $14,000 in the first semester alone!

We also catalog open textbooks of interest to social workers and those published outside of OSWE. We’re happy to help anyone interested in publishing their own open textbook, joining an open textbook project, or reviewing an open textbook.

White iPad  by MaxPixel  CC-0

White iPad by MaxPixel CC-0

Research on OER

In the 2018-2019 academic year, we will complete first studies of OER in social work education. Our experimental studies at Radford University focus on the outcomes of students using an open textbook in undergraduate and graduate research methods classes. We are also undertaking the first study of textbook cost burden for social work students.

We would love to collaborate on empirical and theoretical evaluations of open textbooks, OER, open pedagogy, and policies that support open education.

Abundance  by Digital Buggu  CC-0

Abundance by Digital Buggu CC-0

Open Educational Resources

One of the most challenging aspects of working with OER is finding them. OSWE collaborators have organized resources as part of our OER Commons group. We also link to other repositories like Merlot and provide information on how to submit your resources to these repositories.

While not strictly OER, we also collect and organize Zero Textbook Cost preparations for social work courses that use library resources at no cost to the student.

Education and Outreach

Part of our mission is to educate instructors who want to create and share OER, spread awareness of the problem of textbook costs for students, and share the empirical support for OER.

We are happy to facilitate seminars for faculty, administrators, or student organizations. Our first seminars will take place in Fall 2018.

Classroom  by Pexels  CC-0

Classroom by Pexels CC-0


As advocates for social justice, social workers are uniquely positioned to advocate for changes that support students and open education. We would love to partner with anyone who wants to lead an initiative at their school!

At the links here, you can see how campuses across North America have approached the problem of textbook costs, bringing students, faculty, and administrators on board with open alternatives.

What is OER?

Robot OER  by Annemazo  CC-0

Robot OER by Annemazo CC-0

Open educational resources (OER) refer to instructional materials that do not use a traditional copyright license.  Instead, these instructional materials—including textbooks, slideshows, activities, videos, and  others—reside in the public domain or use creative commons copyright licenses that provide users with the following permissions: 


the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)


the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)


the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)


the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)


the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend) (Wiley, n.d.)