By taking selected classes, Central Lakes College students can earn their Associate of Arts Degree without ever buying a textbook. It’s called the Z-Degree and CLC is the first in the state to offer it.
CLC built its Z-Degree by offering its faculty opportunities to review potential open education resources (OER), redesign courses to use OER, and to author OER for CLC courses.
What’s OER? It’s high quality teaching and learning materials, such as textbooks, that are openly licensed. That means instructors are free to revise, reuse and remix the resources to create the perfect set of learning materials to fit their classes. Students can access those materials online, avoiding the cost of a textbook. Still want a paper copy? CLC’s Graphic Design Department prints them at a very low cost.
“Faculty are no longer constrained by commercial textbooks that do not fit their courses well,” said Martha Kuehn, CLC Dean of Liberal Arts. “They now have the freedom to create the set of resources that they want their students to have. This results in materials that are customized to our courses and our students.”
In addition to improving learning, OER helps the student financially.
“OER removes financial barriers for our students and improves student success,” Kuehn said. “No more waiting until the next payday or for financial aid before buying books. Students have all the materials they need on day one of class.”
CLC is extending OER savings into area high schools, too. Through a grant through the National Joint Powers Alliance, CLC was able to extend its OER work to its College in the Schools partners.
Karen Pikula, a CLC psychology instructor who uses OER in her classroom, added: “About 60 percent of students do not have textbooks three weeks into a semester. This is a tragedy. In these times of economic stress it is vitally important that we strive to provide our students with high quality free learning resources, that they have access to the first day of class.”
Pikula’s Spring 2016 Honors General Psychology class gathered student feedback on how the cost of textbooks impacted their living budgets. Here are some responses:
“I could use the extra money for other things that I may need for school such as supplemental learning material, school supplies and help with utilities and rent.”
“I traditionally use one student loan to pay for my apartment and textbooks, but I didn’t have enough this semester because the cost of my textbooks were more than double what I paid last semester. Now I have to take money out of my personal savings account to cover rent.”