Thanks to the Zero-Textbook Cost (ZTC) option classes brought to PCC by psychology professor Julie Kiotas and developed by the Open Education Resources (OER) committee, the college has saved students upwards of $1.2 million.
In 2015, Kiotas was the first professor in the U.S. to adopt a textbook from Rice University’s OpenStax collection. From there, the number of classes offering ZTC has grown — and with it, the amount of money saved — to serve 15,383 students, according to the Shatford library’s OER webpage.
OER at PCC is chaired by librarian Walter Butler. This committee is responsible for acquiring the Institutional Partnership with OpenStax. It oversees campus wide strategies for expanding OER, which includes educating faculty on what OER is and how to use it.
If a course is ZTC, this does not mean that the course uses an OER textbook. As an example, College 1, a requirement for first semester Pathways students, is a ZTC class that does not use an OpenStax book. The Pathways program works with the OER committee to select books for the class that are available via “an ebook that the library has access to through their databases,” said Butler.
Moreover, “there’s not an OER textbook for every class,” Butler continued, but there are plans for future expansion of the program. “The OER committee will continue offering professional development [workshops, essentially] for faculty to help them understand how to discover and utilize OER,” Butler explained.
The idea is that the more faculty know about how it works, the more classes will offer a ZTC option.
PCC nursing major Emily Dix has been a student since 2016, and she has taken two ZTC courses.
“I took sociology and math 131,” she said. “The math one had some errors in it, but [OpenStax] was good about any time an issue came up you can email them, and they would look it up and fix it.”
The quality was on par with that of regular textbooks, and the textbooks “meshed well with the curriculum,” Dix said. In both of her classes, it seemed like the professors based the curriculum on the textbooks.
However, Dix wishes the ZTC option was extended to the impacted anatomy classes.
“For my anatomy class — I crashed three or four, and they all said the same thing — we didn’t have to get the latest edition because, for the most part, it’s all the same information,” Dix said.
Yet there were no ZTC options available for anatomy this semester.
With the exception of BIO11 in the spring (general biology, a course that a serious nursing major would steer clear of), neither the spring 2019 nor the summer 2019 schedule of classes lists anatomy, biology, nursing or physiology courses as having ZTC option classes.
According to Butler, “we have already established a ‘path’ within the local Social and Behavioral AA degree.”
Plans to advance the OER initiative on campus include expanding on “paths,” sequences of ZTC courses leading to a zero-cost degree, to provide more “z-degrees” for PCC students.