Community college shares OER degree pathway

Students can access two complete degree programs at zero cost using OER

oer-pathwayFor colleges everywhere, offering a zero textbook cost degree program became easier as Northern Virginia Community College’s Extended Learning Institute (ELI) and open courseware provider Lumen Learning announced a collaboration to publish 24 online college courses for two complete degree programs.

All courses were developed for zero student cost using open educational resources (OER) (i.e., no textbooks, just public access internet).

NOVA says it is the first community college to fully share its OER degree pathways and courses. Building on this pioneering work, other members of the education community can map courses to their own degree requirements, adapt them to fit their own learning outcomes, and offer complete OER-based degree programs of their own.

“From the very beginning, NOVA’s efforts with OER courses and degree programs have been about both increasing student success and creating material to be shared with more educators to impact more students,” said Dr. Wm. Preston Davis, director of instructional services. “With open degree pathways, we provide a huge boost to students who can’t afford textbooks, and we put them on a clearer path towards completion. We want to see the entire education community provide this tremendous benefit.”

The courses now available through NOVA and Lumen Learning were originally developed by ELI, which has offered zero textbook cost certificates and degree programs since 2013. Now available as open, “zELI” courses (z for zero textbook cost from ELI), they fulfill all requirements for NOVA’s Certificate in General Studies, as well as associate degrees in General Studies and Social Sciences. The courses are being published with open, Creative Commons licenses, allowing anyone to freely use, revise, remix and repurpose the materials.

“NOVA has been in the vanguard of wide scale adoption of OER, and it is a significant milestone for its well-developed OER degree pathways to become openly available to the entire education community,” said Dr. Cable Green, director of global learning for Creative Commons. “NOVA and the ELI faculty are taking bold steps to show educators everywhere what is now possible with open education.”

To make zELI courses broadly available, NOVA is collaborating with Lumen Learning to build the courses in Lumen’s flexible platform designed expressly for OER-based courses. The collection of zELI courses is freely available through the Lumen website. Institutions may opt to use Lumen’s extremely low-cost, paid support for zELI courses, which covers faculty training, technical support, the ability to fully customize course materials, integration into any major LMS, and guidance around OER program design.

“We are delighted to join with the NOVA team in making this body of work available to the education community,” said Dr. David Wiley, chief academic officer of Lumen Learning. “Open degree pathways and OER courses give colleges essential building blocks to rapidly develop and offer their own zero textbook cost degree programs. We know from OER adoption patterns that a degree program is a game-changer in terms of generating momentum and scaling the positive impact on students.”

To date, more than 10,000 students have enrolled in NOVA ELI courses yielding textbook cost savings of over $1.5 million over two years. According to Dr. Davis, the ELI team of faculty, instructional designers and librarians was careful to select core, high-enrollment courses that can impact as many students as possible, regardless of specific course of study. At the same time, the team looked beyond individual courses to create depth and quality around full pathways for students to earn an entire degree.

According to TJ Bliss, program officer in the Education Program at the Hewlett Foundation, “This step by NOVA goes far towards putting OER degree programs within reach for other colleges. It gives academic leaders a vision of what is now possible in open education, as well as the means to get there. For institutions struggling with affordability and access, OER degree programs can catalyze systemic change towards open education, and colleges can reap the benefits in terms of student success.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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