Nationwide OER Degree Program Launches Today

In case you didn’t see it elsewhere, I’m republishing the press release from Achieving the Dream about the incredibly exciting OER Degrees work that launched today. It’s really happening!


Achieving the Dream Launches Major National Initiative to Help 38 Community Colleges in 13 States Develop New Degree Programs Using Open Educational Resources

OER Degree Initiative will accelerate use of openly licensed learning materials in higher education and cut costs to students while improving degree and certificate completion

SAN FRANCISCO—June 14, 2016—The national community college reform network Achieving the Dream (ATD) today announced the largest initiative of its kind to develop degree programs using high quality open educational resources (OER). The initiative—which involves 38 community colleges in 13 states (see attached list of participating colleges)—is designed to help remove financial roadblocks that can derail students’ progress and to spur other changes in teaching and learning and course design that will increase the likelihood of degree and certificate completion.

The annual costs of textbooks are about $1,300 per year for a full-time community college student and amount to about a third of the cost of an Associate’s degree. This cost, research shows, is a significant barrier to college completion. Students who don’t complete college are over 50 percent more likely than those who graduated to cite textbook costs as a major financial barrier, according to a study by the research firm Public Agenda.

Equally important, using digital and interactive open educational resources such as open courseware will encourage faculty to teach students in more engaging and dynamic ways and invite students to become more actively involved in their own learning. The initiative’s requirement to create entire degree programs using OER also will trigger a careful re-examination of course content and sequencing to build up-to-date, cohesive degree programs. These degrees will be available to a minimum of 76,000 students over a three-year period.

The effort is intended to spark more rapid adoption of OER within higher education, beginning with community colleges. 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.

The OER Degree Initiative will create a library of high-quality, digital, open courses available to other institutions and the public at large. Making resources easily available to all is expected to encourage OER adoption even at non-participating institutions. 

A Culture Change

“This initiative will help further transform teaching and learning in the nation’s community colleges,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, President and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “ Extensive use of OER will enable students to have access to more dynamic learning tools and a richer academic experience at a cost that will help more students complete their studies.”

Achieving the Dream recently unveiled a new approach to improving student success and completion that helps colleges develop institutional capacities essential to implementing sweeping initiatives like OER degrees. Leading the OER Degree initiative will allow ATD and the participating colleges to expand their understanding of impactful teaching and learning across entire degree programs.

“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.

“Colleges involved in the effort will need to integrate OER into their course redesign processes and update professional development to prepare instructors to use open, digital content most effectively,” said David Wiley, an international expert on OER and Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning, a key partner in the initiative. “Over the next three years, colleges will create systems and structures that better connect curriculum and pedagogy to what students need to learn to be successful in academic disciplines and the workplace.”

The $9.8 million in funding for the initiative comes from a consortium of investors that includes the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, the Shelter Hill Foundation, and the Speedwell Foundation.

Results of Previous Efforts

Colleges and states that have introduced OER initiatives have already seen significant results.

“Some of Virginia’s community colleges have led the way in using OER content exclusively,” says Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s community college system. “Studies of our institutions have shown that OER reduces costs and contributes to better grades, higher course completion rates, and faster degree completion.”

Tidewater Community college, for example, was the first community college to adopt an open educational resources degree which enables students to complete a two-year degree in business administration with no textbook costs. Tidewater’s “Z-Degree” program has experienced high student satisfaction levels, improved student retention, and an estimated 25 percent reduction in college costs for students (tuition and books).

Northern Virginia Community College’s pilot OER courses have increased pass rates by nine percent compared to non-OER courses.

A recent multi-school study found that students using OER took an average fall semester credit load of 13.3, compared to 11.1 credits for students using traditional books. If this holds, students using OER would complete their degrees a full year earlier for a 60 credit-hour degree.

How the Initiative Will Work

ATD will help colleges make OER degrees critical elements of their student success efforts. Lumen Learning will provide technical assistance; SRI International will evaluate the initiative and conduct research on how OER degrees impact student success and the institutions providing them; and the Community College Consortium of Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) will facilitate a community of practice.

At the completion of the Initiative, all approved OER courses will be available through a comprehensive, easily accessible online platform.

Achieving the Dream will serve as initiative intermediary, managing grants to all the institutions, overseeing implementation, and ensuring programmatic fidelity. ATD will monitor college progress, provide guidance on change management and institutional transformation, and assure effective integration of OER Degree partner support and guidance.

Colleges Participating in the OER Degree Initiative

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 sections offered.

State Institutions
AZ (1) Pima Community College
CA (2) Santa Ana College
West Hills College Lemoore
CT (1) Housatonic Community College
FL (2) Broward College
Florida State College at Jacksonville 
MA (1) Bunker Hill Community College
MD (1) Montgomery College Foundation
MI (1) Bay College
MN (3) Distance Minnesota Consortium (Alexandria Technical and Community College, Northland Community and Technical College, Northwest Tech
NY (9) CUNY Consortium (Borough of Manhattan Community College, Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College)
SUNY Consortium (Clinton Community College, Herkimer Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College, Monroe Community College, Tompkins Cortland Community College
NC (1) Forsyth Technical Community College
TX (8) Odessa College
Texas Consortium: Alamo Colleges (Northeast Lakeview College, Northwest Vista College, Palo Alto College, San Antonio College, St. Philip’s College), Austin Community College, San Jacinto Community College, El Paso Community College
VA (6) Virginia Community College Consortium (Central Virginia Community College, Germanna Community College, Lord Fairfax Community College, Mountain Empire Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, Tidewater Community College)
WA (2) Lake Washington Institute of Technology
Pierce College

 

Achieving the Dream, Inc. is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping more community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree.

Comments on this entry are closed.