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During the Summer and Fall 2018 semesters, RVCC students saved just over $93,000 by enrolling in courses with zero-textbook costs. These z-courses provide students with course materials from the first day of class that are available to them at no cost online or through Canvas. The faculty teaching these courses have adopted Open Educational Resources or selected other "free-to-student" materials in lieu of assigning a commercially published textbook. As the cost of textbooks has increased dramatically, student debt is at an all time high, and publishers have captured the course material market, the issue of textbook affordability weighs heavily on the minds of both students and faculty who see their students struggling. The financial pressures of higher education have caused many students to delay purchasing their textbooks until weeks into the semester or to choose to not purchase textbooks at all, often putting them at an academic disadvantage compared to classmates who can afford to purchase the textbooks before classes start. Z-courses provide students with some relief and may help them succeed by ensuring course materials are available for free from Day 1.
A handful of courses had already adopted open textbooks or were designed to use free online materials instead of a commercial textbook, including Business Law (made OER by Professors Melanie Morris and Brian Donnelly) and The Nature of Science (designed as OER by Professor Marianne Baricevic). In Spring 2018, faculty were invited to submit proposals for grant funded projects to convert courses that used a commercial textbook into a z-course. 19 faculty received grants to convert 12 courses. The first of those to convert along with the existing z-courses resulted in the above savings.
Converting courses to OER not only saves students money but also opens up the possibility for innovative teaching by bringing new resources and materials into a course. For examples, Professors Klinger, Kletz, and Rimple adopted an existing open textbook from Virginia Tech for their Introduction to Business course, but also created a wide variety of supplemental materials so that all faculty teaching the course would have the resources they need. And Professor Klinger created an Alexa skill so students could use Alexa to review important concepts for each chapter!
A list of the current z-courses available for RVCC students is maintained on the Library's "For Students" page. A list of low-cost courses - for which materials cost no more than $45 - is also available. A second round of grant funding is now available for faculty to submit new proposals to convert courses. As this program expands, more and more students will benefit from the cost savings and may even be able to funnel those savings back into their education.
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