Houston Community College System Partners With panOpen To Expand OER Usage Across All Campuses

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With its “Z-Degree” or “zero cost textbook” program, HCC is a national leader in the use of OER as a means of lowering textbook costs. In the last 2 years alone, HCC OER initiatives have saved students more than $2,500,000.

“The partnership with panOpen means that ultimately, students will benefit from the high quality tools and support afforded the faculty. We are excited to work with them to open up access and help improve student persistence and success.”

Houston Community College System (HCCS) and panOpen, a next-generation learning platform for Open Educational Resources (OER), announced a partnership today to expand the use of OER across the System. With its “Z-Degree” or “zero cost textbook” program, HCCS is a national leader in the use of OER as a means of lowering textbook costs. In the last 2 years alone, HCCS OER initiatives have saved students more than $2,500,000.

The introduction of the panOpen platform means that faculty throughout HCCS will have greater options for robust and fully supported tools to aid in their use of OER. panOpen’s tools enable faculty to easily customize, remix, collaborate, and share content that is entirely governed by Creative Commons licenses. Whether adopting existing fully developed interactive OER materials within panOpen’s libraries or using their own materials faculty can also make use of commercial-grade assessments, analytics, comprehensive LMS integration, and communication tools.

HCCS is strengthening its commitment to the Z-Degree program: by the spring of 2020, all nine main campuses will offer Z-Degree-based core curriculum, enabling thousands more students to enroll in these courses without concern for textbook costs.

Students will see significant benefits through the partnerships: those enrolled in Z-Degree programs will access their courseware free of charge and those enrolled in courses outside of these programs will see only a nominal charge. At the same time, they will benefit from studying experiences that allow them to read and take quizzes on any device, communicate with faculty and fellow students through the application, and automatically build their own study guides as they move through the materials.

“Lowering the cost of educational materials and improving equity of access should not mean that faculty need to compromise on the quality of the content or the tools and support for it,” commented Jerome Drain, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor, Instructional Services, “The partnership with panOpen means that ultimately, students will benefit from the high quality tools and support afforded the faculty. We are excited to work with them to open up access and help improve student persistence and success.”

The HCCS and panOpen partnership consists of three core components: First, the two organizations will engage faculty who are interested in eliminating textbook costs through the Z-Degree program without sacrificing technology or support. Second, the organizations will work with faculty whose courses may not be included in the Z-Degree programs but would nonetheless like to adopt supported OER and offer those materials at a small fee to students. Third, HCCS and panOpen will collaborate to develop “communities around content,” organized by subject matter or course, in which faculty regardless of institutional affiliation can participate. In this way, HCCS and panOpen are helping to realize the promise of OER as a truly distributed network of content production, collaboration, and use.

“Faculty adoption of OER at Houston Community College has been a long time coming and is now rapidly accelerating; at HCC, OER accounts for as much as 20% of adoptions, whereas just five years ago it was an option adopted by only a handful of faculty” noted Nathan Smith, HCCS’s OER coordinator and an instructor in philosophy. “panOpen represents the next phase of OER: increasing support by offering high-quality courseware models that mimic publisher content. I especially appreciate panOpen’s commitment to collaboration around content development. We are excited about this partnership as another step to increasing the reach of OER at HCC and elsewhere.”

“What impressed me most about panOpen was the quality of the exercises, such as the interactive questions and videos embedded in each chapter, as well as the end-of-chapter quizzes” said William McFaden, politics professor at HCCS and early adopter of panOpen. “My students actually found the exercises to be more challenging than the adaptive learning features provided by the conventional textbook publishers.”

“The Houston Community College System mission is to help members of its community, many of who are economically disadvantaged, advance their education and training,” commented panOpen Founder and CEO Brian Jacobs, “The turn to open models of education, along with the tools and support that bolster them, means that equity of access can be accomplished while also introducing innovative new strategies to empower faculty and improve learning outcomes. panOpen is thrilled to join with HCCS to support this.”

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About HCCS
Houston Community College System is an open-admission, public institution of higher education offering a high-quality, affordable education for academic advancement, workforce training, career development, and lifelong learning to prepare individuals in our diverse communities for life and work in a global and technological society. HCCS's service area is Houston Independent School District, Katy, Spring Branch, Alief Independent School Districts, Stafford Municipal District, and the Fort Bend portion of Missouri City.

About panOpen
Designed by educators, panOpen is a learning platform that realizes the promise of OER by providing all of the components required for its widespread use. panOpen offers complete peer-reviewed content, customization tools, assessments, analytics, LMS integration, and a means of financially sustaining campus-based OER efforts. With panOpen, faculty adopt enhanced interactive OER as they would a commercial textbook, with confidence in the quality and reliability of the content. panOpen preserves the virtues of OER—radically reducing textbook costs and freeing faculty from the constraints of commercial copyright—while delivering the quality, features, and ease-of-use faculty expect from their learning materials. The result has enormous implications for pedagogical practices, changing the relationships of instructors and students to their educational content. To learn more, visit http://www.panopen.com

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Lindsey Gervais
panOpen
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