A college degree that uses free learning materials instead of costly commercial textbooks? What sounds like a student’s impossible dream is expected to become reality at College of the Canyons by fall 2017.
In an ongoing effort to make a college education more affordable for all students, College of the Canyons is expected to begin offering an associate degree in sociology in which all the classes use Open Educational Resources (OER).
OERs are teaching and learning materials that have been released in the public domain or under an intellectual property license as a no-cost alternative to traditional textbooks.
By incorporating more OER materials into course curriculum, COC students will soon be able to earn an associate degree by taking only OER-based courses that do not require students to purchase expensive college textbooks.
“We are very excited to begin offering our students an OER degree pathway to help them reach their educational goals without being deterred by the price tag on college textbooks,” said James Glapa-Grossklag, the college's dean of educational technology, learning resources and distance learning.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that the cost of textbooks grew at three times the rate of inflation between 2002 and 2016. According to research by the non-profit organization College Board, the average college student is expected to spend more than $1,200 a year on textbooks and school supplies.
Already, the history, geology, mathematics, biology, water technology, and sociology departments use OER materials regularly.
It is estimated that COC students save approximately $800,000 a year by using OER materials instead of commercial textbooks.
The college’s Associated Student Government (ASG) recently passed a resolution in favor of the use of OER materials, encouraging “faculty to consider open education resources when academically appropriate.” The ASG is also urging the California Legislature and other state representatives to support OER education as a solution to rising textbook costs.
“We hope that this first OER-only degree program will pave the way for other OER courses at the college,” said Glapa-Grossklag, who was recently re-elected as president of the Open Education Consortium, a worldwide association of higher education institutions committed to advancing open education.
“Eventually, we would like for each COC student to have the option to complete an associate degree program with the sole use of OERs,” he added.