OER-based Degree Pathways: Emerging Trends and Lessons Learned at U.S. Community Colleges

Una Daly, Quill West, James Glapa-Grossklag, Richard Sebastian, Preston Davis

Northern Virginia Community College

Panel 1 hour

The rising cost of textbooks has been cited by students as a major barrier to achieving their educational goals. A study by the U.S. based Student Public Interest Research Group (StudentPIRGs.org) found that almost half of students surveyed take fewer or different classes based on the prices of textbooks. Two-thirds of students skipped buying a textbook because of cost[1]. U.S. community colleges have been promoting the adoption of high quality open educational resources (OER) to alleviate costs but the impact on students has been dependent on the availability of OER in varied subjects area. The emergence of OER-based pathways however has the potential to maximize impact for students who want to complete an associate degree or a career technical education (CTE) certificate.

OER-based degrees, also called “Zero-Textbook-Cost degrees”, are pathways to a degree or credential with no textbook costs. Faculty have redesigned all courses in the pathway to use open educational resources (OER) for instructional materials. These degrees are gaining in popularity particularly at community colleges where registering for these courses can save students up to 25% on the cost of attendance for a 2-year degree[2]. Faculty also enjoy greater academic freedom when they can select and customize open materials to enhance student engagement and support learning outcomes. In practice, it has been shown that students following a guided pathway complete their educational degrees more quickly resulting in less costs and more career opportunities.[3].

Hear from a panel of pioneering OER degree college leaders from Virginia, Washington, and California on how these degrees benefit their students and support their institutional mission and goals for open access and degree completion. In addition, panelists will share lessons learned for OER degree development and the challenges of sustaining and expanding the degrees across the institution.


OER-based Degree Pathways: Emerging Trends and Lessons Learned at U.S. Community Colleges from Open Education Consortium