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Virginia Pilots Statewide Open Textbook Initiative for Community Colleges

Virginia Community Colleges is piloting a new program to replace textbooks with open educational resources (OER) in designated programs.

According to Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), textbook costs present a barrier for students, whereas technology makes access to information "faster and less expensive without compromising quality."

Tidewater Community College in Virginia already operates an OER initiative, called the "Z-Degree" program. The Z stands for "zero textbook cost," and the Z-Degree program is a business degree that uses freely accessible, openly licensed educational materials. The college launched the program in fall 2013, and, according to VCCS, it has been "immensely successful."

VCCS plans to model its open textbook initiative on Tidewater's Z-Degree program. The pilot program will run at 15 of Virginia's community colleges and is expected to save 50,000 students more than $5 million dollars in the first year.

"We may never be able to bring that [OER initiative] to every course of study," said DuBois in a prepared statement. "We owe it to our students, however, to bring that flexibility to every course that we can.”

VCCS did not announce which of its 15 community colleges or which programs would take part in the pilot project, which is being funded by a $200,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The Virginia Community College System operates 23 colleges serving 405,000 students each year.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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