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CLC to offer zero-textbook degree

Central Lakes College recently announced the introduction of a way for students to earn an associate degree without ever buying a textbook.

The zero-textbook-cost degree, or z-degree, uses open education resources to eliminate textbook costs for students. The college is the first in the state to offer a z-degree.

The college built its z-degree by offering its faculty opportunities to review potential open education resources, redesign courses to use those resources and to author resources for CLC courses.

Open education resources are teaching and learning materials like textbooks, that are openly licensed. This means instructors are free to revise, reuse and remix the resources to create the right set of learning materials to fit their classes. Students can access those materials online, avoiding the cost of a textbook. The college's graphic design department can print paper copies of these resources at a low cost, if a student wants a paper copy.

"Faculty are no longer constrained by commercial textbooks that do not fit their courses well," said Martha Kuehn, CLC dean of liberal arts, in a news release. "They now have the freedom to create the set of resources that they want their students to have."

In addition to improving learning, open education resources help students financially.

"Open education resource removes financial barriers for our students and improves student success," Kuehn said. "No more waiting until the next payday or for financial aid before buying books. Students have all the materials they need on day one of class."

Through a grant from the National Joint Powers Alliance, CLC was able to extend its open education resource work to its college in the schools partners. Karen Pikula, CLC psychology instructor, touted the benefits of open education resources in her classroom.

"About 60 percent of students do not have textbooks three weeks into a semester," Pikula said in a news release. "This is a tragedy. In these times of economic stress it is vitally important that we strive to provide our students with high quality free learning resources that they have access to the first day of class."