Tallahassee Community College boosts affordability, access in math courses using open educational resources
Logo of Tallahassee Community College, founded in 1966

Smooth transition to open course materials improves outlook for academic success and delivers $535,000 in textbook cost savings to TCC students

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. and PORTLAND, Ore. (May 24, 2016) – Math faculty at Tallahassee Community College took the leap in fall 2015 to shift two high-enrollment math courses to open educational resources in order to eliminate problems with textbook affordability and access. Impacting 4,825 students during the 2015-2016 academic year, this change resulted in students saving more than $535,000 on the cost of required textbooks.

Using sample courses, technology and support from OER adoption partner Lumen Learning to ease the transition, TCC faculty members tailored materials to fit Florida’s state-defined learning outcomes and course objectives. Every student in Intermediate Algebra and College Algebra receives automatic access to those course materials.

According to Calandra Stringer, TCC’s dean of curriculum and instruction, the change made sense. “We know that each day that students are not prepared will decrease their chances of success in a math course. Using open educational resources, we can be sure students have access to the material they need to succeed from the first day of class.”

Open educational resources first got the attention of TCC’s math faculty through the work of Jim Smart, an associate professor of math at the College. Smart saw firsthand the problem of textbook affordability preventing his students from succeeding in his classes. He began exploring OER and was impressed what he found: textbooks, videos, quizzes, an online homework system and more. He offered to pilot open content in math courses. After seeing the impact on students, he became a program champion, partnering with Lumen to train colleagues and rapidly expand TCC’s approach in order to benefit more students.

Photo of Tallahassee Community College’s Jim Smart, associate math professor and champion of open educational resources.

Photo: Tallahassee Community College’s Jim Smart, associate math professor and champion of open educational resources.

“We chose two high-enrollment subjects that are often gateway courses for students going into business and STEM fields,” said Smart. “ This initiative gave us an opportunity to collaborate and get creative about using OERs to deliver the best learning experiences we can provide.”

Open educational resources include any educational content published in the public domain or with Creative Commons licenses that freely allow for sharing, modification, remixing and redistributing the content. In addition to aligning content with Florida’s state learning outcomes, TCC faculty members tailored the materials to fit how they teach math in the classroom.

“The collaboration we saw between math faculty at Tallahassee Community College is an ideal model for other higher education institutions,” said Kim Thanos, CEO of Lumen Learning, which provides technical support for the TCC program. “Faculty members built on the best work of peers from around the country, but had full control to customize and adapt OER courses with Florida students’ success in mind.”

For TCC, using OERs has been a win-win proposition for students and faculty. In addition to freedom and flexibility in the course content, instructors love being able to start teaching on the first day of class because they know students have access to the materials. Students like being able to access course content right inside Canvas, the learning management system, and they are thrilled when they do not have to buy a pricey textbook. Even TCC’s District Board of Trustees, when they saw how much money the OER courses save students, had no trouble approving a small course fee to ensure the program’s sustainability.

After experiencing the tremendous impact of OERs in gateway math courses at TCC, Stringer sees great potential for OER-driven course redesign in math as well as other disciplines, at TCC and beyond.

“This is an opportunity for faculty from different institutions and disciplines to work together to create something that is hugely valuable to our entire state,” said Stringer. “Many Florida students jump from institution to institution. Using state standards and course objectives, we can design a better-aligned curriculum that ensures students are learning the same information across the board. Every Florida student should experience the benefits of affordability and access that many TCC students enjoy today.”

About Tallahassee Community College

Tallahassee Community College is one of the nation’s top community colleges. Every semester, more than 14,000 students choose TCC as the next step in their education. Many are preparing for transfer to one of Florida’s state universities. Others are learning the skills they need to move directly into rewarding careers in healthcare, public safety, information technology and other growing fields. TCC serves the counties of Gadsden, Leon and Wakulla in Florida’s Big Bend region.

About Lumen Learning

Lumen Learning provides well-designed, low-cost digital course materials that help colleges and universities offer the best education to all students, regardless of socioeconomic status. Created using open educational resources (OER), Lumen’s complete, customizable college courses save time and effort for instructors designing OER courses, while students save millions in textbook costs. Lumen’s course list includes 70+ high-enrollment college subjects. More than 60 colleges and universities across the U.S. have used Lumen-supported OER courses for traditional, online, blended and personalized learning delivery. Ongoing efficacy research suggests students who use Lumen do significantly better than students in sections using other course materials. Educational resources created by Lumen are published under Creative Commons Attribution licenses and contributed back to the education community. Visit us at Follow us on Twitter at @LumenLearning.

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