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Thursday, November 3 • 2:15pm - 3:05pm
The OER Degree Initiative

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In the early 21st century, the nation is struggling to address numerous social and economic challenges. We are witnessing a shrinking middle class, increased income disparities, lack of opportunity for young people, and the need to build a skilled workforce to attract good jobs, increase regional economic development, and ensure prosperity for all. Americans fervently believe that education is the route to opportunity, social mobility, and to rebuilding our diminished middle class. As never before, our society demands high-access, low-cost opportunities to get the knowledge and skills required for good jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage. Leaders at all levels are looking to community colleges to help solve these complex challenges. Our community colleges are the nation's premiere open-access institutions that educate the largest percentages of low-income students and students of color in higher education. They are trusted institutions where America develops the skills of its workforce and millions of nontraditional college students gain traction toward college degrees and credentials and sustainable careers.

Yet completion rates for students attending community colleges remain stubbornly low. Many factors are thought to contribute to these low rates including financial pressures on community college students, many of whom are already supporting young families. Institutional factors are also believed responsible, including outdated pedagogy and curriculum, weak advising systems, and inadequate supports for learning.

The Open Educational Resources (OER) Degree Initiative seeks to boost college access and completion, particularly for underserved students, by engaging faculty in the redesign of courses and degree programs through the replacement of proprietary textbooks with open educational resources. The short term goal is to reduce costs for students and accelerate their progress through college, but an important secondary impact is to change the culture of institutions so that they create systems and structures that better connects curriculum and pedagogy to updated student learning outcomes.

The new initiative builds off groundbreaking work in several states and particularly at Tidewater Community College in Virginia. Tidewater is the first community college to adopt an open educational resources degree which enables students to complete a two-year degree in business administration with no textbook costs. Tidewater's "Z-Degree" program has experienced high student satisfaction levels, improved student retention, and an estimated 25 percent reduction in college costs for students (tuition and books).

Over the next three years, the Open Educational Resources Degree Initiative will lay the groundwork for nationwide adoption of OER Degrees. Recognizing the growing expertise and interest in developing OER degrees beyond US borders, the Open Educational Resources Degree Initiative invites two-year public higher education institutions and systems in the U.S. and Canada to apply for three-year grants to support the creation of new OER Degree programs.

The work of selected colleges and state systems will be supported by a robust technical assistance component that will help faculty and staff re-design courses using open educational resources; opportunities to engage in a community of practice with OER experts, peers, and other resources; and research and evaluation efforts.


Una Daly

Director Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER), Open Education Consortium
Una Daly is the Director of Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER), a partner in Achieving the Dream’s OER Degree Initiative and the California Zero Textbook Cost Degree program. She also was OER Library Services Manager for the California Open Online... Read More →

Donna Desrochers

Associate, rpk GROUP

Rebecca Griffiths

Principal Education Researcher, SRI
Education researcher focused on evaluating technology-supported interventions aimed at improving student learning and success in K-12 and postsecondary settings. Enjoy investigating system-level and organizational facilitators and barriers to innovation. Lead large-scale research... Read More →
avatar for Richard Sebastian

Richard Sebastian

Director, Open and Digital Learning, Achieving the Dream
As Achieving the Dream’s Director of Open and Digital Learning, Dr. Sebastian helps ATD’s Network colleges advance open and digital teaching and learning practices to support equitable outcomes for students and facilitate whole college transformation. Dr. Sebastian is a national... Read More →
avatar for David Wiley

David Wiley

Co-Founder and Chief Academic Officer, Lumen Learning
I've spent over 20 years creating, clarifying, elaborating, and evangelizing the core ideas of open education to students, faculty, institutions, companies, and governments. I've also worked to place a solid foundation of empirical research beneath these core ideas. Now, my colleagues... Read More →

Thursday November 3, 2016 2:15pm - 3:05pm EDT
Grand Ballroom