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A Virginia community college may be the first college in the country to offer a degree in which students won’t have to use textbooks.
Tidewater Community College (TCC) will launch its “textbook-free” degree this fall aimed in part to ease the sting of soaring textbook costs for students, which is increasingly becoming a financial challenge. Textbooks have increased more than 800 percent since 1978, with the average book today priced at $175.
Business administration students participating in the pilot program will use high-quality open textbooks and other open educational resources (OER), which are freely accessible, openly licensed materials that include text, videos, presentations and other formats. All students will need is access to a browser.
Eliminating textbooks could result in students saving $2,000-$2,500 over the course of the degree, college officials estimate.
See video below with Lumen Learning co-founder David Wiley
TCC is partnering in the effort with Lumen Learning, a Portland, Ore.-based company that helps educational institutions integrate OER into their curricula.
For TCC President Edna Baehre-Kolovani, the initiative is about making higher education more accessible and affordable by reducing the costs of required books.
“We have worked with our bookstore partner, Barnes and Noble, to offer students options,” she said. “Textbooks can be purchased new or used and many are available as rentals or e-text. This initiative offers yet another option: to skip traditional textbooks entirely. ”
Starting this fall
TCC’s textbook-free pilot project will begin with the 2013-14 academic year, according to Daniel DeMarte, the college’s vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer. Aside from increased access and affordability, TCC hopes the project will lead to more faculty engaging in learning about and refining the use of OER and greater faculty and student understanding of learning outcomes.
TCC will offer one section each of 21 courses for which students will not be required to buy textbooks. Thirteen faculty members will teach the sections.
“The business administration degree produces more than 350 graduates annually, the second highest among the college’s offerings, and the department has an innovative faculty member who is familiar with OER and willing to lead the initiative,” DeMarte said.
The courses will be delivered both on campus and online. TCC contracted with Lumen to help identify the best OER, support the faculty building the courses and ensure copyright compliance.
An idea from a retreat
DeMarte said he was inspired to pursue the initiative after hearing Lumen Learning founder David Wiley speak about OER at the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) Chancellor’s annual retreat last August. He approached Wiley after the panel and soon the two organizations began forming a plan.
TCC started its initial training with faculty in January, with Lumen leading the training, said Kimberly Bovee, associate vice president for strategic learning initiatives at TCC. The company is currently working with the college to develop the OER courses. Lumen is also looking into copyrights on selected material.
TCC officials stressed that the quality of the OER courses will be as good or better than the textbook courses.
“We will be deliberate and strategic with this effort remaining focused on student success and high-quality education,” DeMarte said, noting that OER is peer-reviewed to ensure academic rigor.
Faculty members have expressed a “general openness” to the idea of OER, said DeMarte, who noted that faculty support is crucial.
“If you don’t have a faculty who is going to champion it, it’s just not going to work,” he said.
Another key component of the project is support services for students taking OER classes, Bovee said. That includes technical support as well as advising students and making sure they understand what the courses entail.
One of the challenges will be to manage expectations of students, DeMarte said.
“It doesn’t mean that reading isn’t required,” he said.
The state system is encouraging other two-year colleges to test OER. It has formed a group to develop recommendations for reducing textbook costs across the system. VCCS will soon announce colleges that will each receive $3,000 to identify, review and customize high-quality OER to make them the only required course material.
VCCS has also joined other public colleges and universities in the state to hold an inaugural Open & Digital Learning Resources Conference to build awareness of innovative OER initiatives.
Lumen Learning co-founder David Wiley explains the principle of "open" matter in education.
Copyright ©2014 American Association of Community Colleges