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Open Educational Resources

38 Colleges to Drop Traditional Textbooks in Favor of OER in New Degree Programs

The OER Degree Initiative will create degree programs that utilize openly licensed learning materials, eliminating the purchase of expensive textbooks and saving community college students thousands of dollars.

Achieving the Dream (ATD), a national reform network of community colleges, announced a major national initiative to develop degree programs using open educational resources (OER). The newly launched OER Degree Initiative will involve 38 community colleges in 13 states and result in a library of high-quality, digital, open courses available to other colleges and the public at large.

Currently, the annual cost of textbooks is about $1,300 for a full-time community college student. For the 4 million students in more than 200 community colleges across the United States, the cost of textbooks is a significant barrier that prevents students from completing coursework. According to a study by the research firm Public Agenda, students who have not completed college are 50 percent more likely than students who finish college to cite textbook costs as a major obstacle to completing their education.

The OER Degree Initiative seeks to save students money and improve degree and certification completion. “Today, there are enough open educational materials to replace textbooks in required courses in four two-year programs: business administration, general education, natural or general science, and social science. But only a few colleges are using those resources. There is also a significant body of OER in computer science,” according a news release.

“Through the OER Degree Initiative, these community colleges are simultaneously addressing two important challenges faced by educators and students: Not only will they provide their faculty the flexibility and academic freedom to align their open educational resources to curriculum objectives, but also, by lowering textbook costs, they will make it far more likely that their students will achieve the goal of attaining a degree,” said Barbara Chow, education program director at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, in a prepared statement.

For the initiative, ATD is in charge of assisting colleges in making OER degrees a critical component of their student success efforts. Acting as the initiative intermediary, ATD will manage grants to all the institutions, oversee implementation and ensure programmatic fidelity. Lumen Learning will offer technical assistance and SRI International will evaluate the initiative and conduct research. The Community College Consortium of Open Educational Resources is tasked with facilitating a community of practice.

Following the initial implementation, the OER courses will be available on an online platform.

The OER Degree Initiative is backed by grants from foundations totaling $9.8 million. Participating colleges and systems were selected through a competitive grant process “based on their ability and capacity to implement OER degree programs, offer the full complement of degree courses quickly, or quickly scale the number of selections offered,” according to a news release.

For more information, including the full list of institutions participating in the OER Degree Initiative, visit the Achieving the Dream site.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].

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