Posted by Una Daly Una Daly

Faculty, staff, and students from forty-three California community colleges gathered at College of the Canyons in early September to celebrate student leaders and grantee teams from the Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) Degree program, an initiative of the Community College Chancellor’s office. The initiative represents work over the last two years of twenty-three public community colleges to implement thirty-four degrees or certificate pathways where the cost of textbooks has been completely eliminated.

James Glapa-Grossklag, Dean at College of the Canyons and co-leader of the ZTC Degree Technical Assistance, opened the summit with highlights of the initiative followed by remarks from the Chancellor’s office. Student outcomes data from grantees was shared showing grade improvements across all ZTC courses but with Pell-eligible students’ grades improving at double the rate of all students.

“Remove the cost barrier of commercial textbooks and align your classes as a pathway. Can you think of two other changes that produce such transformative results?”  James Glapa-Grossklag

Keynotes from Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education, at SPARC and Hal Plotkin, former Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Department of Education and a co-founder of the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) bookended the summit inspiring students and educators alike.  They shared open education policy successes from past years and congratulated the grantees on their impressive ZTC Degree achievements to date while encouraging them to continue the work in spite of the inevitable roadblocks that arise.

“Student voices matter! When I was a student, I was able to speak with a member of Congress and change his mind about how the cost of education affects students.” Nicole Allen

Five students from the OER Student Advocacy Network shared struggles of being first-generation and lower-income which often required them to work, take care of families, and attend school all at the same time.  One student had to choose buying her eyeglasses over her textbooks which made her feel like she didn’t belong in college. Their OER Student Advocacy Toolkit sponsored by the Michelson Foundation will be released later this year providing a how-to guide for California college students to  promote OER programs on their campuses and create better awareness and advocacy among student groups.

“How does one become a leader? If you want to be a leader, lead. No one will tap you on the shoulder and tell you, ‘You’re a leader.’ You have to tap yourself on the shoulder.”  Hal Plotkin

ZTC teams from College of Alameda, College of the Canyons, Reedley College, Santa Ana College, and Skyline College spoke in lightning rounds about the degree programs created, student savings, and other grant impacts. Los Medanos, Santa Monica, and Skyline College Equity Champions shared how they were creating college-wide awareness of ZTC Degrees and linking their ZTC efforts with student success initiatives on campus such as student equity, guided pathways, and college promise.

Other special guests included the California State University’s Affordable Learning leadership and the CSU Channel Island (OpenCI) team who are building their own 4-year Z-degrees in Communications, Nursing, and Health Sciences. The Statewide Academic Senate OERi project leadership was also present to share information on their work to date.  The U.S. Student PIRG’s Textbook Affordability director joined us to share expertise on training students in advocacy work.

A dazzling array of afternoon breakouts featured grantees from Pasadena, Butte, West Hills College Lemoore, guest speakers, and students from the College of the Canyons. Topics included Data Collection for ZTC Outcomes, Open Pedagogy, Using the Vision Resource Center, Sustaining ZTC Degrees,  Introduction to OER Search, Online Homework Systems, ZTC Practicalities, and Organizing Students for Advocacy.

“With the knowledge I gained today, I’ll work on engaging students from diverse backgrounds to develop comfort with digital tools, particularly in course sections utilizing OER.”  post-summit survey

Grantees and attendees left the summit grateful for the day of sharing and inspiration.  Questions throughout the day focused on how to get started with a ZTC degrees as more colleges want their students and faculty to share the benefits of implementing ZTC Degrees to reduce barriers while enhancing teaching and learning.

“This was my second ZTC summit I have attended and really appreciate this opportunity… being able to speak with faculty of all different departments about what they are doing in the OER/ZTC world, and collaborating and sharing ideas. I really hope for other opportunities to do this in the future!“ post-summit survey

Technical assistance for the California ZTC Degree Initiative from 2017-19 has been provided by West Hills College Lemoore and College of the Canyons in collaboration with the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER).  Bi-annual statewide summits, in-person grantees trainings, and monthly webinars have helped build a statewide community of practice focused on promoting the development of statewide ZTC Degrees to enhance teaching and learning while significantly reducing equity barriers for students.


Image ZTC California Logo: Natalie Miller, 2017, CC-BY

Photo #1: Twitter Feed, @JGlapaGrossklag, Sept 6, 2019

Photo #2: Twitter feed: @Michelson20MM, Sept 6, 2019

Photo #3: Twitter Feed, @JGlapaGrossklag, Sept 6, 2019

Related Articles:

Michelson Foundation, 2019 Zero-Textbook Cost (ZTC) Degree Summit, Sept 12, 2019

Inside Higher Ed article: OER Embraced: California Community College Implement Zero-Textbook Cost Degrees, Sept 19, 2019, Lilah Burke.





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