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Why OER Degrees?

An OER-based degree, sometimes referred to as a Zero-Textbook-Cost degree, is a pathway to a degree or credential with no textbook costs. Faculty have redesigned the courses in the pathway to use open educational resources (OER) for instructional materials. OER-based degrees have been gaining in popularity over the last few years particularly at community colleges where registering for these courses can save students up to 25% on the cost of attendance.  Faculty enjoy greater academic freedom when they can select and customize open materials to support student learning outcomes. Learn more about the pioneering programs at Tidewater Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, and Pierce College District and how they benefit their students and support institutional mission and goals.

Text and layout adapted from the “OER-based Degrees” by Lumen Learning licensed under CC BY 4.0

Read the Year of Open’s Open Education Degree interviews with the Education Officer at the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, chancellors, academic deans, directors, and provosts from private and public institutions as well as faculty leading the work at their organizations.

Colleges with OER Degrees


Tidewater Community College

Tidewater Community College’s textbook-free degree in business, launched as a pilot program for the Fall 2013 semester. In addition to saving students money, it is also positively impacting retention and student satisfaction.


Northern Virginia Community College Extended Learning Institute

NOVA launched its fully online OER-based General Education Certificate in 2013. Since expanded to an Associate’s degree in General Studies or Social Sciences, enhanced student and faculty engagement have been reported.


Pierce College Open Pathways

Pierce College launched its fully transferable Associate of Arts degree using open educational in 2014 at its JBLM campus. The courses are offered online and face-to-face and give students a flexible, predictable way to save money.

Case Studies