Hostos Community College, as part of a CUNY consortium, is sharing a $300,000 Open Educational Resources (OER) grant that provides free educational resources for the College’s Early-Childhood Education associate degree program. The funding will provide substantial savings to students, as well as enhance classroom curriculum.

Jacqueline M. DiSanto, a Hostos Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Teacher Education Unit, said Hostos is working to create OER sections of the existing courses, based on the same student-learning outcomes of the existing courses.  The intent is to have at least one OER section of each course available to students by Spring 2019.  The first four courses will be available during the 2016-2017 academic year.

With approximately 500 students enrolled in the degree program, the potential savings for students will be substantial. Over the next few years, students in these courses can expect to save 80 to 100 percent of the cost of textbooks.

Hostos Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Christine Mangino said that aside from the savings for students, OER offerings will reinvigorate teaching and raise course completion rates.

This grant funding will help Hostos stay in step with modern teaching techniques and technologies, thus better preparing both students and faculty through this reservoir of high quality content customized to the way today’s students learn best.

Hostos is part of the CUNY OER Consortium, which includes Borough of Manhattan Community College and Bronx Community College. The grant works as an umbrella to support the different CUNY college programs. The overall initiative is being spearheaded by Achieving the Dream, Inc., and involves 38 colleges in 13 states. It is designed to help remove financial roadblocks that can derail students’ progress and spur improvements that will increase the likelihood of degree and certificate completion.

The annual costs of textbooks are about $1,300 per year for a full-time community college student and amount to about a third of the cost of an Associate’s degree. This cost, research shows, is a significant barrier to college completion. Students who don’t complete college are over 50 percent more likely than those who graduated to cite textbook costs as a major financial barrier, according to a study by the research firm Public Agenda.

Equally important, using digital and interactive open educational resources such as open courseware will encourage faculty to teach students in more engaging and dynamic ways and invite students to become more actively involved in their own learning. The initiative’s requirement to create entire degree programs using OER also will trigger a careful re-examination of course content and sequencing to build up-to-date, cohesive degree programs. These degrees will be available to a minimum of 76,000 students over a three-year period.

Achieving the Dream, a national community college reform network, is managing the new OER Degree initiative on behalf of a consortium of investors that includes the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, the Shelter Hill Foundation, and the Speedwell Foundation.

The OER Degree Initiative will create a library of high-quality, digital, open courses available to other institutions and the public at large. Making resources easily available to all is expected to encourage OER adoption even at non-participating institutions.

Results of Previous Efforts
Colleges and states that have introduced OER initiatives have already seen significant results. Studies have shown that OER reduces costs and contributes to better grades, higher course completion rates, and faster degree completion.”

Tidewater Community college based in South Hampton Roads, VA, for example, was the first community college to adopt an open educational resources degree which enables students to complete a two-year degree in business administration with no textbook costs. Tidewater’s “Z-Degree” program has experienced high student satisfaction levels, improved student retention, and an estimated 25 percent reduction in college costs for students (tuition and books).

Northern Virginia Community College’s pilot OER courses have increased pass rates by nine percent compared to non-OER courses.

A recent multi-school study found that students using OER took an average fall semester credit load of 13.3, compared to 11.1 credits for students using traditional books. If this holds, students using OER would complete their degrees a full year earlier for a 60 credit-hour degree.
How the Initiative Will Work
ATD will help colleges make OER degrees critical elements of their student success efforts. Lumen Learning will provide technical assistance, SRI International will evaluate the implementation, and the Community College Consortium of Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) will facilitate a community of practice.
At the completion of the Initiative, all approved OER courses will be available through a comprehensive, easily accessible online platform.

Achieving the Dream, Inc. is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping more community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree.

Colleges Participating in the OER Degree Initiative

About Hostos Community College
Eugenio María de Hostos Community College is an educational agent for change that has been transforming and improving the quality of life in the South Bronx and neighboring communities since 1968. It serves as a gateway to intellectual growth and socioeconomic mobility, as well as a point of departure for lifelong learning, success in professional careers, and transfer to advanced higher education programs. The College’s unique Student Success Coaching Unit provides students with individualized guidance and exemplifies its emphasis on student support services.

Named one of the top 10 finalists for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, Hostos offers 28 associate degree programs and two certificate programs that facilitate easy transfer to The City University of New York’s (CUNY) four-year colleges or baccalaureate studies at other institutions. The College has an award-winning Division of Continuing Education & Workforce Development that offers professional development courses and certificate-bearing workforce training programs. Hostos is part of CUNY, the nation’s leading urban public university, which serves more than 500,000 students at 24 colleges.