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Power in numbers in higher ed OER development

Coalition of Washington colleges launches competency-based online business degree

Considering that textbooks can account for 25 percent of a community college student’s degree, some institutions have banded together to develop more open educational resources.

A coalition of institutions in Washington recently launched a competency-based online business degree that doesn’t require textbooks. When students pay for the course, they also pay for all of the materials, which include online textbooks, says Richard Cummins, president of Columbia Basin College, located in the western part of the state.

“We wanted to drive down the total cost of ownership of the degree and place a creative commons stamp on materials so any other college or state system could grab them,” Cummins says.

The program also condenses a two-year degree into 18 months. The competency component means students can gain credits for skills they have already learned from jobs they have had. And it’s more rigorous—students need a B average to move on from a course, whereas they can progress with a C- in traditional programs, Cummins says.

This summer, the community college reform organization Achieving the Dream launched a $9.8 million project to develop OER-based degrees at 38 community colleges in 13 states. And Una Daly, director of the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources, says more colleges are supporting campuswide OER projects, whereas a few years ago it was just individual faculty who were developing or adopting the resources.

Daly’s organization, which has institutional members in 21 states, organizes workshops, provides online professional development, connects colleges with content developers and hosts webinars in which schools can share resources.

“Institutions can also leverage this from a public relations-point of view,” Daly says. “If they’re helping students to have a more affordable education experience, that can be very powerful in the community.”

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