Academic News

CUNY Community Colleges Join National Movement Toward Free Online Course Materials

June 22, 2016

Three of CUNY’s community college—Hostos Community College, Bronx Community College, and Borough of Manhattan Community College will share a $300,000 grant to participate in a new, nationwide effort to integrate high quality open educational resources (OER) in associate degree programs, in place of traditional text books that are costly for students. By making free, online text books and other curriculum materials available, the OER Degree Initiative will help remove financial barriers to student progress and encourage new teaching and course design approaches that will increase the likelihood of degree completion.

The OER Degree initiative is spearheaded by the community college reform network Achieving the Dream, Inc., (ATD), and launched in mid-June with 38 participating colleges in 13 states. CUNY’s participating colleges, like the others, will use funding from ATD to adapt existing associate degree programs so that course curricula is based entirely on materials that are freely available online—meaning that students in these programs will not need to purchase or borrow text books; rather, they will have digital access everything they need for course assignments, including multimedia content and resources that can be updated in real time.

In the coming months the three degree programs that have been identified will begin the conversion process. BCC will be developing a degree in Liberal Arts and Science with a History Option, BMCC will offer a Criminal Justice degree, and Hostos will be doing Early Childhood Education. This will be a collaborative process between faculty members and campus librarians to map out the path forward for converting those programs’ curriculum and syllabi to open source access. The OER Degree initiative will build on existing interest in OER at the CUNY colleges—in recent years, CUNY’s Office of Library Services has run workshops to help faculty convert courses to use more open source materials. Academic Works, CUNY’s Institutional Repository also houses CUNY faculty created OER’s. The colleges that will represent CUNY in ATD’s OER Degree program have been at the forefront of these efforts; BMCC, for example, has already moved 40 courses to open source. As more of the university’s courses move in this direction, the OER Degree Initiative will save students money, increase retention, and create new, increasingly dynamic channels for student-faculty engagement.

“Freely available, openly licensed educational materials have incredible potential to advance CUNY’s mission and revolutionize the college experience,” said Ann Fiddler, Special Projects Librarian in CUNY’s Office of Library Services, noting also that the work made possible by the ATD funding will be scalable in ways that can benefit more of the CUNY and New York City community in the years ahead. “The university’s involvement with Achieving the Dream’s OER Degree initiative is exciting evidence of a much larger, national movement that is gaining strength in higher education all over the United States.”

Read more about the OER Degree Initiative in Inside Higher Ed and The Washington Post.