Today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch story, Reynolds offers classes with no book costs, describes J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College’s Zx23 Project, with interviews with students, project leader and English faculty member, Jane Rosecrans, and a few faculty skeptics who are still not convinced about the quality or efficacy of open educational resources. I thought the quote from JSRCC student Eric Eichenlaub was incredibly poignant, and underscores for me why reducing the cost of textbooks is so critically important:
Eichenlaub said he has paid up to $200 per course for a new textbook and supplemental materials to make sure he gets the most from the class.
So he was especially gratified when he enrolled in two of English professor Jane Rosecrans’s American literature courses that are part of a pilot program using free open-source educational materials rather than traditional hardcover textbooks. Eichenlaub, father of twin 14-month-old boys, calculates his savings meant extra cash for diapers, formula or his education.
Hey, are you are looking to check out some new digital course tools and materials to possibly incorporate into your instruction to engage your students? If so, you may want to check out Virginia State University’s Digital Course Fair. According to VSU’s Director of Distance Education, Art Fridrich, the goals of this event are “to introduce or reintroduce college faculty to the rich variety of digital course tools currently available to facilitate learning, enhance or create new partnerships, and reduce the cost of education for college students.”
Some of the things you’ll see at this event are adaptive learning courseware built upon Carnegie Melon University Open Courseware, new products and services from publishers like Cengage, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill, open educational resources vendor Lumen Learning, and much more.
Over the past several weeks, we’ve added new courses to the OER Course Catalog in Blackboard Learn, bringing the total number of curated OER titles to 15. The newest open course, and one that has been heavily requested by colleges, is ITE 115: Introduction to Computer Applications and Concepts.
All VCCS faculty have access to the OER Courses tab in Blackboard Learn. You just fill out a short form to request access to any of the available open courses in Blackboard, or you can preview a copy of the course materials (without assessments, quizzes, etc.) on a public site hosted by Lumen Learning. Just click Public Link.
Lumen Learning is offering daily online office hours for all of their clients. All VCCS faculty are welcome to consult with Lumen experts during these times about any open course or OER topic. You can find the Lumen office hours calendar here: http://lumenlearning.com/office-hours/.
The Chancellor’s Innovation Fund (CIF) is a competitive fund open to faculty and staff of VCCS colleges to fund innovative, targeted projects that closely align with the new VCCS Strategic Plan, Complete 2021, and other system priorities. All CIF projects are developed, piloted, and assessed by the end of each fiscal year. Both credit and non-credit projects are welcome.
Past CIF recipients have used the funds to contribute such valuable, lasting projects as PluggedIn VA, the courses in the Teaching Online Program (TOP, IDOL, LOGO, TOTAL), Northern Virginia’s Digital Open OER-Based General Education Project, and a number of crucial workforce certifications and academic programs. All faculty and staff with innovative ideas are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity as we all work towards a common goal: a successful community college experience for all of our students.
If you have a potential project in mind and are wondering if it is the right fit for the CIF program, or simply want to find out more, please visit the CIF site and register for the webinar at the bottom of the Overview tab. You will receive the webinar link once your register.
The link to the CIF Informational Webinar recording is below:
Public radio fans in the Richmond metro area, listen up: the Zx23 Project will be featured on WCVE’s Virginia Currents radio program this Thursday, September 10 during NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. The radio version will air on WCVE at 8:44 am and 5:44 pm respectively. There will also be a longer online version available on the Virginia Current’s site.
The piece includes interviews with Kerrigan Sullivan, Professor of Theatre and Department Chair for Visual and Performing Arts at John Tyler Community College, and yours truly, about the Zx23 Program. The online version will also include interviews with Cora and Marcus, two of Kerrigan’s students. I will post the link to the program once it is released.
The Distance Education peer group conference is scheduled for October 9-10, 2015 at Reynolds Community College’s Parham Campus. Proposals are due on Friday, August 28.
Get together with your peers and bridge the distance to superior teaching and learning online. If you have an innovative idea, suggestions for best practices for distance education and/or hybrid classrooms, new research, or other information you want to share that will enrich the practice of teaching and the process of learning online, please submit a proposals. We need our pioneers and trailblazers, our full-timers and our adjuncts. We need the diversity of thought and ideas that drive educational innovation. We need you to step forward.
Proposals are being accepted now and must be received by the August 28 deadline. Sessions are 60 minutes long and may be in the form of a:
There is a new feature in Blackboard Learn that is going to make it extremely easy for VCCS faculty to browse, preview, and adopt open courses to use in their classes. Now, when faculty login to Blackboard Learn, they will see a new tab at the top of their screen called OER Courses (OER stands for open educational resources. For a good definition of OER, see the Hewlett.org site). The new tab contains a list of openly licensed courses—courses that use free and open educational materials instead of traditional publisher-created textbooks—that have been developed, reviewed, and shared by VCCS faculty.
All VCCS faculty are welcome–scratch that—encouraged to browse this catalog of open courses to request access to preview any courses they are interested in. Once a faculty member finds a course they like, they can copy it into a Blackboard shell to use. For free. No strings attached.
Simple as pie, right? Well, that’s what we hope at least.
Currently, the following eleven open courses are available on the OER Courses tab:
Hopefully, this new tab will make it easier than ever for interested faculty at colleges across the VCCS to adopt open courses, giving them more flexibility with their course materials and saving their students money to boot.
Cheryl Huff, professor of English and humanities at Germanna Community College, is rethinking textbooks.
GCC professor and Zx23 Program Manager Cheryl Huff got a nice write-up in the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star about her role in the VCCS’s Zx23 Project.
Cheryl Huff has heard the excuses over and over from her students at Germanna Community College. Those who started class without the required textbooks would explain that they were having problems getting their financial aid or had to wait until their next paycheck to buy them.
“It’s very frustrating on both sides,” said Huff.
Now the GCC associate English and humanities professor is working to eliminate their frustration and hers. She’s on a one-year leave of absence to head the Virginia Community College System’s new Zx23 Project.
Congratulations to the VCCS colleges selected to participate in the Zx23 Project. Each college will receive grant funds to support faculty and staff in building a Z-Degree at their respective institutions. You can click on the college abbreviation in the first column to see additional application details.
See the Zx23 Project page for news and updates on grantees and other aspects of this groundbreaking project.
There is still a chance for a few additional colleges to participate in the Zx23 Project. Contact Richard Sebastian at email@example.com for details.