Birth of the Z-Degree [...]

Building upon these and other initial efforts, in 2012 David Wiley, who is an adjunct professor at Brigham Young University and the co-founder and chief academic officer of Lumen Learning, held an open-textbook training in Virginia for others looking to implement OER in their classrooms and on their campuses.* Lumen Learning—an organization founded to help K-12 and higher education institutions implement OER—aims to increase the use of “free, high quality open content … to make education more affordable, while at the same time improving student success.” This presentation would serve as inspiration for several new, larger initiatives to eliminate the cost of textbooks for students.

In the audience that day was Daniel DeMarte, vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer at Tidewater Community College in Virginia. He took the idea back to Tidewater, where he and his colleagues expanded upon it. Their goal wasn’t just to use open textbooks in a few courses: Tidewater wanted to create the first degree program that would have zero associated costs for textbooks. They began calling it the “Z-Degree” option.

Tidewater rolled out its “Z-Degree” for an associate’s degree in business administration (one of the school’s most popular programs) in 2013, just one year later. But it didn’t simply move from a proprietary textbook to the same thing in an open, digital form. Professor Linda Williams says that the move to OER has allowed professors to refocus on teaching to intended learning outcomes, rather than simply teaching the textbook. “At some point we allowed the publishers to control what we teach, and how we teach it,” she said at a recent convening held in Washington, D.C., organized by the Hewlett Foundation. “And they certainly aren’t better suited than we are to do it.” (Source)

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