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Thursday, November 3 • 9:50am - 10:15am
Establishing actual costs of textbooks across curricula: Data from the Virginia Community College System

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The dominant form of open education in North America is the proliferation of open textbooks and OER with the aim of making education more affordable and accessible. However, much of the work in higher education on this front is built upon ill-founded claims about the costs of educational materials for students (Hill, 2015). In response, Quill West, Open Education Project Manager for the Pierce College District, devised a simple approach to collecting data from bookstores to establish costs based in localized contexts. The methodology was shared through the LibOER group of the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). All members were invited to contribute their own data with the hopes of ultimately collecting a robust data set to represent textbook costs in a variety of contexts from across North America. To date, colleagues from Temple University, UMass-Amherst, and the Oregon Community Colleges (Hofer, 2016) have collected and shared their data.

One particularly appropriate candidate for establishing textbook costs is the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), consisting of 23 community colleges across the state. As of fall 2014, the VCCS reported that 183,443 students were enrolled at the 23 community colleges (VCCS, 2015). In order to provide greater access and affordability, colleges in the VCCS began exploring OER in 2013. That year, Tidewater Community College was the first college in the VCCS to develop and offer a Z-degree program in Business Administration. During the same time, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) developed the Digital Open OER-Based General Education project, which provided two pathways to a Z-degree for online students either in General Studies or Social Science. As of fall 2015, over 10,000 NOVA students have taken a zELI OER course since the fall 2013 launch. Building on these successes and as part of the ambitious Complete 2021 strategic plan, the VCCS partnered with Lumen Learning to launch the Zx23 program in 2015. With funding from a Hewlett Foundation grant, 16 of the 23 Virginia Community Colleges were provided training and technical support to build Z-degree programs. To date, the Zx23 program has resulted in more than 70 OER courses being made available.

Thus, establishing student costs outside of these OER program offerings will help to solidify the evaluation of impact as well as contribute to the larger national dataset. In this session, we will present our data collection methods that are customized for the VCCS context as well as the data collected in summer and fall 2016. Using descriptive statistics and GIS software, data will be analyzed across each of the colleges to reveal cost patterns among and between the state's community colleges. By compiling a localized empirical data set, our aim is to provide the VCCS with robust data to help support policy and program development around OER. Establishing actual student costs will support the argument for OER by basing the potential savings in real numbers instead of the estimates provided by the National Association of College Stores or The College Board.

avatar for Amanda Carpenter-Horning

Amanda Carpenter-Horning

First Year Retention Coordinator, John Tyler Community College
I spend my days navigating the world of higher education and the occasional evening blogging. I am native of Richmond and I currently reside in the suburbs with my husband Jerad, and our dog Clark.
avatar for Jamison Miller

Jamison Miller

PhD Student; Director of Teaching and Learning, College of William and Mary; Lumen Learning
Doctoral candidate and early-career researcher in open education theory, policy, and practice. Director of Teaching and Learning at Lumen Learning. The dissertation WILL be defended this year.

Thursday November 3, 2016 9:50am - 10:15am EDT