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A Design Team Approach to Online OER Degree Pathways


In 2016, Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) proposed a fully online Associate of Arts (AA) in General Studies through Achieving the Dream’s OER Degree Pathways Initiative. FSCJ’s focus is the working adult who struggles with the costs of higher education, First Time in College (FTIC) and low-income students.


Authors: Dr. Peter J. Shapiro: Director, Creative Learning Services, FSCJ Online and Workforce Education and Shannon Dew, Director of Online Library Services

Published on June 19, 2018


The OER Degree program directly supports two goals of the FSCJ’s strategic plan for 2017-2020: promote access and equity, and increase retention and completion. This alignment has helped with setting the mindset for the transformative work required for implementing an OER degree.  FSCJ Online, who offers distance learning options for the institution, advanced the idea to develop the AA in General Studies as an online OER Degree pathway which expands access beyond the physical classroom and school hours for non-traditional students.

Results from the 2016 Textbook and Course Materials Survey, reported by the Florida Virtual Campus (FLVC), confirmed that the high cost of textbooks is negatively impacting students’ academic progress. Reducing the price barrier to instructional texts, particularly for low-income and/or minority students, is a focal point of these efforts. Additional results from this same survey of 22,000 students reveal that 67% of the respondents report not buying the required textbook for their course. These results, among others, supports the goal of having free course materials available for students in the learning management system on the first day of the semester. Having materials available in this way reduces the financial and psychological pressure on students, and makes their decision to commit to a college course of study an easier one to make.


Grant Requirements

FSCJ’s first challenge was understanding the restrictions of the grant requirements, and how we would need to work with the grantpartners. There was a bit of a learning curve on both sides, but through a great deal of effort by everyone involved we came up with systems that provided the necessary checks and balances on course materials before submitting them for certification to Lumen Learning, the ATD grant partner responsible for licensing verification.

OER Awareness & Availability

Challenges included raising awareness and acceptance of OER with faculty and administration, an understanding about what defines OER, and how to locate quality resources. To address these issues, we looked for training opportunities from our grant partners, and offered additional workshops of our own to faculty and staff to best train each other to discover resources, evaluate the quality and learn about creative commons licensing. There was also concern about the permanence of the OER materials available and how often they would be updated. Unlike textbooks and other materials from publishers, OER may not necessarily go through an updating process and often can disappear online. FSCJ created their own copies of the materials when possible and used those in their learning management system instead of linking to the online versions. Some resources found were not ADA compliant, which led to frustration in needing to find replacement materials that were.

The time involved to locate, curate, and revise OER materials impacted timelines. Many faculty commented on the amount of work and original writing involved with the process. How to compensate faculty for their efforts in creating open courses also needed to be addressed. Faculty subject matter experts were compensated through stipends, but no such funding was included for faculty librarians and instead they were asked to do this as part of their job responsibilities.  FSCJ did not have a dedicated librarian to offer support for locating OER, instead 7 librarians shared the responsibility and balanced the OER initiative work with other college priorities.

Course Design and Librarians

Advice to College Embarking on OER Degrees “For any college thinking about starting an OER degree program, I would advise to find your supporters and build a core team with faculty, librarians, instructional designers, and students to look for opportunities to use open textbooks; offer training and coaching around OER adoption and development; designate an individual at your institution to coordinate the OER initiative.” -Shannon Dew, Director of Online Library ServicesWhile FSCJ attempted to bolt this project onto processes that were already in place, they found that they needed to extend their online course design teams to include librarians. This was a nod to both the library and faculty, to provide a supportive atmosphere for what could be a daunting task. In order to allay fears with regards to what OER were available that fit the grant and were acceptable in the eyes of faculty members meant that some took it upon themselves to write a great deal of material. They found that their timelines were extended typically 15 to 20 percent longer than a traditional online course development. This did not include the extra month needed to provide documentation for certification. While timelines were longer, there were very few errors in submitted course maps, so the effort paid off. FSCJ took this responsibility off of faculty members and had instructional designers serve as the course map construction crew. The instructional designers worked hand-in-hand with FSCJ’s multimedia team who prepared the materials for submission.

As a result of this work, new people were engaged in the process of online course design, which usually results in faculty transferring what they learn with the Center for eLearning (CeL) to the rest of their course load. Everyone learned something from this process, and the CeL has also learned some valuable lessons.


Building the Team

FSCJ started the process by gathering various stakeholders. The central design group was already established for online development, so they included instructional designers in with librarians, deans, and college administrators to better understand what the requirements would be. This included meeting with grant partner, Lumen Learning, to learn more about the definition of OER and Creative Commons and about OER course development guidelines. After the initial training, the library and FSCJ Online offered additional workshops at faculty meetings, college mini-conferences, and through FSCJ’s professional development department. FSCJ decided to design the program as an online degree pathway, which could later be adapted by faculty for face-to-face and hybrid modalities.

Once the courses in the degree pathway were identified, they constructed the degree track with some duplication and consulted with academic advisors regarding the courses they chose. They also involved the library, and after consulting with their instructional design and multimedia staff they crafted their team approach to course design to now include a librarian. For the first few courses, the librarian, instructional designer, and subject matter expert (SME) were invited to the initial meeting to explain the process and determine each person’s role in the development. Later on, the librarians were engaged once instructional gaps were identified that needed their expertise to help fill. They also consulted with area deans who worked with their faculty to identify champions to serve as their Subject Matter Experts (SME).

Marketing and Launch

In the beginning, they spoke to as many people as they could about the project: faculty, staff, administrators. As they completed courses and scheduled them, they then began to slowly market these courses to students through student services advisors and email blasts directly to students. This culminated in the Fall 2017 semester when FSCJ officially launched the online AA. In the Spring, they launched a small hybrid track at one of FSCJ’s campuses in addition to the online track. A website for students has been established with a downloadable list for the current semester so students can find the OER sections. Email blasts to students in the AA track point students to the website and the class list.  For faculty and staff, timely OER emails which tout the progress made and provide links to stories of interest (through the CCCOER digest) have been sent out.

FSCJ Interactive OER Wall


During Open Education Week 2018, in partnership with the library and a number of faculty SMEs, FSCJ broadcast live webinars to share their open courses and describe their experiences working with the grant, and have recorded them for future playback. They also created awareness for students with an interactive student OER wall. This provided an opportunity for students to learn about OER and offer their feedback regarding the impact of textbook costs on them. 


Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) has completed 21 courses in the OER AA degree pathway. An additional course is nearing completion for late Summer 2018, with the final 2 becoming available in the Fall 2018 semester. The online OER degree pathway was launched in the Fall of 2017 through FSCJ Online, and a hybrid modality was launched in Spring 2018 at a single campus location. For the Fall 2018 semester, over 100 OER sections will be offered in the OER degree pathway.


Through Spring 2018, it is estimated that the OER course section enrollment for the AA degree has saved FSCJ students approximately $300,000. When they applied for the Achieving the Dream Grant, FSCJ cautiously estimated enrolling 2,000 students during the grant, but they have already surpassed that mark, with estimated enrollment through Spring 2018 to be over 3,100 students.

Website for students: | Open Educational Resources


After going through the process of planning an OER Degree pathway, FSCJ now has more faculty engaged in the OER discussion and using open resources in class. They have a few lead faculty who have been strong supporters and advocates for OER who have helped bring others on board.

Resources for Faculty: Libguide for faculty

Open Education Week 2018 Faculty OER Presentations

Astronomy OER Course
Dr. Mike Reynolds on Student Engagement


Writing About Texts OER Course
Dr. Dan Powell on the OER Movement


Writing About Texts OER Course
Dr. Dan Powell on Student Engagement


Humanities OER Course
Dr. Scott Cason on Student Engagement and Outcomes

College Profile

Florida State College at Jacksonville:

  • Founded: 1965
  • Enrollment: 50,000 students
  • 4 campuses, 3 centers
  • 13 bachelor’s degrees
  • 45 associate degrees
  • Over 100 technical certificates and workforce certifications

What makes FSCJ stand out among other colleges and universities?

  • Accessible: Classes are offered at convenient locations throughout Duval County and Nassau County and globally through online classes.
  • Affordable: FSCJ ranks among the top 25 most affordable public, four-year institutions in the nation. Plus, they provide many financial aid and scholarship opportunities for students.
  • Convenient: They offer traditional college classes, hybrid courses and online classes, some in accelerated formats.
  • Diverse: Students come from more than 146 countries and range in age from 15 to 77 years old.
  • Highly Ranked: FSCJ ranks 11th in the nation in grand total (4,548), and in all disciplines granted among public, four-year colleges and universities granting associate degrees. (Community College Week)


About FSCJ
FSCJ Quick Facts & Figures | Open Educational Resources
Libguide for faculty