oew2014_banner[Cross posted from CCUSA, Link (CC-BY)] Today, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition organized a Congressional briefing on Open Educational Resources (OER) for Open Education Week. One speaker, Daniel DeMarte, described the experience that Tidewater Community College has had in rolling out it’s “Z-Degree” – an associate degree in business administration that uses a curriculum composed of entirely of OER.

Tidewater identified 21 courses and signed up faculty members to design the curriculum.  They started with the desired outcomes for each of the courses, and then built the curriculum with OER materials that would meet those outcomes. Developing the curriculum took about 12 months. One year into the program, the early results are highly positive.

The OER degree program had two goals – to eliminate cost as a barrier, and to improve teaching impacts. The textbooks for an associate’s degree in business administration normally cost $3679, which is about a third of the cost of the degree from Tidewater.  Adoption of OER reduces these costs to zero. Students and instructors alike are happy with the quality of the OER materials used in the classes. 96% of the students enrolled in the courses have rated the quality of the OER content as equal to or better in quality to the textbooks used in other classes.

DeMarte would like to see other schools follow their lead.  Tidewater intentionally developed a model that can be reproduced.  All of their curriculum materials are openly available under a Creative Commons Attribution License, and there is a wealth of additional open resources available.  Tidewater staff and faculty have made at least 12 presentations to others in the last month promoting these types of programs.

He said there are a number of key things that are necessary to make an open OER degree program work:

  • Commitment from the organization to provide the necessary resources to build the curriculum.
  • Engagement from the faculty, who must be willing to venture into unfamiliar territory. At Tidewater, Prof. Linda Williams played a key role in making the degree a reality.
  • Engagement with the larger OER community.  Tidewater worked with Lumen Learning to set up this degree program
  • A key role for librarians to work with the staff and faculty
  • Continuous effort to fine tune and improve the program

After the panel, Michael Carroll and I talked briefly to DeMarte, who discussed how he wants others to adopt OER.  He told us “I don’t want to hear any more about students who didn’t take a course because they couldn’t buy the book.”  Down the road he would like to see a repository of Open Educational Resources that evaluates what exists based on student outcomes, and that identifies gaps in OER offerings for others to fill.