What: A three-year plan to expand adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER) in Mississippi public higher education. OER are course materials, including textbooks, which are free and shareable.
How: When faculty adopt OER for their courses, those courses are tagged as “Z-Degree” on the course schedule, indicating that they have “zero textbook cost.” Once enough courses are designated Z-Degree, it is possible for students to earn a degree with no textbook costs.
Who: Invited participants will include eight public universities and four community colleges: University of Mississippi, Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State University, and University of Southern Mississippi; East Mississippi Community College, East Mississippi Community College, Itawamba Community College, and Northwest Mississippi Community College. Z-Degree Mississippi will be funded by a $200,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (pending), and $80,000 in grants from the University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts.
When: Z-Degree Mississippi will unfold in three phases —
Phase 1 (through June 2016) Establish at least one OER course at each of the 12 public institutions.
Phase 2 (July 2016 – June 2017) Expand OER adoptions at four universities and two community colleges, focusing on those schools with the most faculty champions and momentum. Develop new OER courses to achieve 50% completion of general education/associate’s degree pathway.
Phase 3 (July 2017 – June 2018) Complete the OER general education/associate’s degree pathway at two Mississippi schools, and continue expanding pathway at others. Create a plan to achieve a 4-year Z-degree pathway by 2020.
Why: An estimated third to two-thirds of students no longer purchase textbooks nationwide (PIRG). UM Campus Bookstore refuses to stock adequate numbers of textbooks for our students. IHL insists on earlier deadlines for textbook adoptions and infringes on faculty intellectual freedom. Even if the textbook is the best teaching material in the world, teachers can no longer teach effectively with traditionally copyrighted textbooks because students cannot read textbooks they do not buy. Faculty will still choose the best textbook for their classes, and often they find OER texts to be superior.