Student Success and Z

How can we help our students engage in their learning, persist through the semester and into the next semester, and move along their chosen pathway?  I hope that one part of the answer to that question is embedded in the recent work of our faculty, work that was supported by a grant from Achieving the Dream.  The grant is known as the “OER Degree Initiative“, and it concludes in December.  As a result of the grant and the dedicated work of faculty across our transfer disciplines, I can announce that we are launching two Z-Degrees in the upcoming academic year.

What are Z-Degrees, you ask?  They are degree pathways that can be completed entirely with Z-classes.  What are Z-classes, you ask?  They are classes where students pay zero costs for their textbooks.  In most instances, Z-classes are taught with openly-licensed, freely available, high quality electronic course texts that students can access on the first day of class.  These texts are known as open educational resources (OER).  In other instances, Z-classes are taught with course materials that are in the public domain and/or available through JSTOR or EBSCO or other ACC Library Services databases.

The launch of two Z-Degree pathways is wholly the result of faculty work.  It is our faculty who crafted course materials for Z-classes.  It is our faculty who shared their course materials with their colleagues.  It is our faculty who recognized the barriers that many students face when confronted with purchasing textbooks and chose to respond in an active way by developing Z-classes.  It is our faculty who recognized that some students who could otherwise succeed in their classes were likely to fail because they were starting the semester without the required textbook, and often could not afford the book at any point in the semester.  Thanks to our faculty, we are offering students opportunities to learn with quality course materials for which students do not have to pay.

Our two Z-Degree pathways are available in the Associate of Science in General Studies in Science (I know – it’s an awkward title), and the Associate of Arts in General Studies in Arts (another awkward title).  And while not all General Studies students will precisely follow these Z-Degree pathways, many of our transfer students will benefit from the availability of core curriculum Z-classes that help them afford college.

If you’re wondering about the quality, rigor, or impact of zero-cost course materials, a recent article in Inside Higher Ed tells the encouraging story of the University of Georgia.  The report can be found here, the authors are Colvard, Watson, & Park, and the article was published in International Journal of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education.

Let’s hear it for the letter Z!

Picture credit: By Acf [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons.