Virginia-based Tidewater Community College will start offering a textbook-free degree program this coming academic year. It will be the first accredited college in the US to offer a degree that does not use traditional and commercial reference materials.
A community college is set to offer a degree program that could set as a model for other colleges and universities that plan to facilitate textbook-free degrees in the future. Tidewater Community College (TCC) will begin a pilot textbook-free education project this coming academic year (2013–2014). The goal is clear: to help lower students’ expenses amid increasing costs of modern textbooks.
The Norfolk, Virginia-based community college is collaborating with Portland, Oregon-based Lumen Learning for this initiative. The initial goal is to offer and facilitate an associate of science degree program in business administration without the need to use the usually expensive traditional textbooks.
Open educational resources
The program will require the use of open educational resources (OER) or ‘open textbooks.’ These materials are openly licensed and freely accessible. The references can be found in public domain. Those can even be released and accessed under intellectual property licenses, which allow free access and repurposing by just about anyone.
Ideally, OER can assume several forms—it can be in text format that include different types of presentations, graphics, and videos. Logically, the information can be in a format that is not only highly useful and accessible but also very interesting and even interactive.
However, students will be required to use a PC to access education materials. Their devices should also be online so they could use browsers to access and utilize the learning materials. The courses will be built in the popular Blackboard, which can be accessible even via a tablet or a smartphone.
TCC is confident that the program will significantly minimize, if not totally eliminate students’ expenses on textbooks. The community college is confident that the project could spare up to a third of students’ total college costs. If proven successful, the initiative can serve as a prototype to combat the inevitably rising textbook prices, which have jumped by up to 812% since 1978.
To make the initiative work, TCC would offer a section at a time of each of the 21 courses in the curriculum. Traditional textbooks will not be required. About 13 faculty members will serve as instructors for every section. Courses will be delivered online and on campus. This way, every student can save up to $2,000 after completing the entire program.
TCC is an accredited US college. Currently, it offers a number of programs in different types of degrees. More than 30,000 students are presently enrolled in the community college. It is still not clear, though, how many college students will enroll in this pilot program.