The digital home of Richard Sebastian

Category: Policy

Community College Online

I am a little late posting this report by The New America Foundation on online learning in the community colleges. Some of the findings in the report came directly from research on the VCCS done by the Community College Research Center. Findings such as this:

Given the lack of large-scale studies about online education in the public two-year sector, the Community College Research Center published a longitudinal study in 2013 that explored how well students in Virginia’s and Washington’s community colleges fared in online versus face-to-face courses. The study’s authors found that overall, student performance decreased in online courses. On average, if a student took a course online rather than face-to-face, the likelihood he would withdraw from the course increased by six percent. For those students who did complete online courses, the authors found that their final grades were lower by 0.3 GPA points (for example, a change from a B+ to a B).

Not exactly what we want to hear, but useful nonetheless.

I am still digging through the report but thought I would share the link for anyone interested in reading it.

Open Education Week: Monday Events

A_Discussion_on_Open_Pedagogy___Open_Education_WeekMonday March 9, 2015

A Discussion on Open Pedagogy

2:00 PM

Sustainability Strategies For Open Educational Resources

3:00 PM

Recursos Educacionais Abertos no Brasil

6:30 PM

Stop Believing in Magic: Business Models for Open Education

7:00 PM

New America Foundation Event in DC: Community College Online



On February 17th, the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program will host an event that will focus on the use of information technology at community colleges. The event will occur in conjunction with the release of a new report by New America, Community College Online, which features case studies of how community colleges are harnessing technology to improve remediation, student services, and content delivery. Here is a description of the two-hour long event from the organization’s web site:

Community colleges are often the only or the last chance for a college education for many of America’s students. Some students enroll in a couple of classes or a short-term certificate to gain new skills, some enroll to obtain their associate degrees, and some enroll with the intention to transfer to a four-year institution. The open access of community college is one of America’s greatest postsecondary strengths, but also one of its greatest challenges. While almost anyone with minimum qualifications can enter a community college and pursue a postsecondary credential, few will actually complete.

Community college students need access to more high-quality, flexible support services, courses, and credentials to succeed. Students should be able to take at least two courses a semester—two in the fall, two in the spring, and two in the summer—so that they can complete their associate degrees in two to four years. Innovative use of information technology can help get them there.

The opening remarks and innovation presentations will be live streamed.  If you can’t make it in person, you can participate on Twitter using the hastag #CCOnline and following @NewAmericaEd. You can see an agenda and register for the event here:

The New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that “invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.”

The Digital Revolution Will Be Livestreamed

The Textbook Costs and Digital Learning Resources (TCDLR) Committee released this final report a few weeks ago at the last meeting of the Reengineering Task Force. I co-chaired the committee with the wonderful Dr. Mark Estepp, President of Southwest Virginia Community College. The committee was charged with the following tasks:

  1. examine VCCS administrative practices and policies that unnecessarily add to the cost of academic textbooks,
  2. explore how networked digital technology can best be leveraged to lower the overall cost of textbooks, including using open educational resources,
  3. investigate ways which currently licensed electronic resources can be used in electronic “course packs,” as a substitute for textbooks, or for the supplementary material often required for a course of study,
  4. identify opportunities for interested VCCS faculty to explore using openly licensed resources in their courses,
  5. examine the current relevance of printed textbooks in an age of interactive, web-based content, digital publishing, and
  6. recommend strategies and policies for creating an institutional culture that embraces and practices openness, transparency, collaboration, and sharing.

The report contains a number of recommendations for lowering the cost of course materials across the VCCS. I am really proud of what this group accomplished, much of it before the release of this report, including the 17 college VCCS Collaborative Bookstore contract with Follett to textbook reduction metrics in the annual evaluations of VCCS presidents. In fact, in many ways the final report is a bit anti-climactic.

Still, you should red it. You can read or download a copy of the report below:

OpenVA: Live Stream

It is almost like you are really there!

Session 1
Open Educational Resources Panel
8:30 am to 10:00 am

Moderator: Diane Ryan (TCC)

  • Raising OER Awareness – Anita Walz, Virginia Tech T Library
  • The Z-degree – Daniel DeMarte, Tidewater Community College
  • Write Your Own Textbook / Student Generated Texts – Jennifer Kidd, Old Dominion University

Session 2
Open Infrastructure Panel
10:15 am to 11:45 am

Moderator: Jim Groom (UMW)

  • A Domain of One’s Own – Martha Burtis (University of Mary Washington)
  • UMW Blogs – Ryan Brazell (University of Mary Washington)
  • Free and Open Infrastructure Initiatives – Chad Wollenberg (Southside Community College)
  • Cloud-based Infrastructure – Rusty Waterfield (Old Dominion University)

Session 3
Open Pedagogy / Curriculum
12:30 pm to 2:00 pm —

Moderator – Mano Talaiver (Longwood University)

  • Outward-facing Teaching and Learning – Jeff McClurken (University of Mary Washington), Recipient of 2014 SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching with Technology
  • OER at a CC: Just Start Somewhere – Cheryl Huff (Germanna Community College)
  • MOOCS – Tom Woodward (Virginia Commonwealth University)
  • LOOCS – Art Fridrich (Virginia State University)

Bookstore Contracts, OER, and Textbook Affordability

BooksBelow you will find a link to the VCCS Bookstore Operations Request for Proposals. This RFP was developed in response to the findings of the VCCS’s Textbook Costs and Digital Learning Workgroup. For the past two years, I have co-chaired, along withe Dr. Mark Estepp, President of Southwest Virginia Community College, this workgroup. While the TCDLR group’s work is still ongoing with its final report scheduled to be released this summer, one of its early findings was not only how much a college’s bookstore contract dramatically influences textbook prices–something that was well-known–but also that the terms of the contracts of various VCCS colleges were wildly disparate. We also discovered that of our 23 colleges, 9-10 had contracts expiring within the next several years.

As a result, Virginia Western Community College, the college with the bookstore contract expiring the soonest, lead the development of this RFP that is not only a systemwide agreement that all colleges can use, but include requirements for the support of OER as well as a reduction in the percentage of commission colleges receive from book sales. A total of 12-13 colleges have indicated they will sign on once their current contracts expire, making it pretty darn close to a systemwide bookstore contract.

Feel free to download and reuse the contract.

VCCS Bookstore RFP by richardsebastian

Affordable College Textbooks Act


U.S. Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota have introduced legislation called the Affordable College Textbook Act with the goal of making college textbooks affordable and openly available under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Bill S.1704 does 5 things, according to Senator Durbin’s press release:

  1. Creates a grant program to support pilot programs at colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open textbooks with priority for those programs that will achieve the highest savings for students;
  2. Ensures that any open textbooks or educational materials created using program funds will be freely and easily accessible to the public via a CC BY license;
  3. Requires entities who receive funds to complete a report on the effectiveness of the program in achieving savings for students;
  4. Improves existing requirements for publishers to make all textbooks and other educational materials available for sale individually rather than as a bundle; and
  5. Requires the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress by 2017 with an update on the price trends of college textbooks.

In its own press release about Bill S. 1704, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) noted several existing open textbook programs that have proved successful in lowering costs for students, including Tidewater Community College’s “Z Degree” Program in Business Administration, the first degree program in the nation with zero textbook costs.

Also, last week at the OpenEd Conference in Utah, three OER projects from Virginia’s Community Colleges were included in the closing keynote: the Chancellor’s OER Adoption Grant, Tidewater’s Z Degree, and Northern Virginia’s OER General Education Certificate. The calculated cost savings to students from these 3 projects as well as other OER projects across the nation were tallied at $1 million dollars. (see related post on OpenEd 2013).

These are exciting times, and there is some real momentum developing around textbook affordability and OER. Virginia has a foot in the door. I hope the Commonwealth, and the VCCS, will continue to be a big part of these important efforts.

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