Germanna Joins Open Educational Resources Consortium
Germanna Community College finalized details July 28, 2016, to join the Open Educational Resources (OER) Virginia Community College Consortium.
The Open Educational Resources Degree Initiative invited two-year public higher education institutions and systems in the U.S. and Canada to apply for three-year grants to support the creation of new OER Degree programs. GCC is one of 39 community colleges in 13 states chosen for the program, said GCC Director of Media & Community Relations Michael Zitz.
The OER Virginia Community College Consortium consists of Central Virginia Community College, Germanna Community College, Lord Fairfax Community College, Mountain Empire Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, and Tidewater Community College.
“The OER Degree Initiative seeks to boost college access and completion, particularly for underserved students, by engaging faculty in the redesign of courses and degree programs through the replacement of proprietary textbooks with open educational resources,” said Achieving the Dream, the national community college reform network managing the initiative. “Over the next three years, the OER Degree Initiative will lay the groundwork for nationwide adoption of OER Degrees.”
“Students, especially those most strapped for funds for college, will directly benefit from the development of courses and degrees with no textbook costs,” said Cheryl Huff, a Germanna professor who has led the zero text book cost effort (Virginia Zx23) for the state’s 23 community colleges.
“Faculty who are funded to create these materials, courses and degrees are fully invested in matching materials to learning outcomes, customizing for their students in a way that is rarely possible with commercial textbooks,” Huff said.
“Annual textbook costs 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,” Zitz said. “Research shows this cost is a significant barrier to college completion.”
“Some of Virginia’s community colleges have led the way in using OER content exclusively,” says Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the Virginia 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, enabling 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),” Zitz said. Northern Virginia Community College’s pilot OER courses have increased pass rates by nine percent, compared to non-OER courses.
At the completion of the Initiative, all approved OER courses will be available through a comprehensive, easily accessible online platform.
The $9.8 million in funding for the initiative comes from a consortium of investors, including 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.
Achieving the Dream, Inc. is a national nonprofit 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.
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