ACC students have saved more than $10 million in textbook costs

Austin Community College District (ACC) students have saved more than $10 million in textbook costs since the college launched zero textbook cost (ZTC) courses and degrees in 2017.

The number of ACC courses now offering low-cost textbook alternatives skyrocketed in the past year, with more students impacted by textbook cost savings than the previous three years combined. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) recognized ACC's accomplishments through its prestigious 2019 STAR Award.

The increased ZTC courses are in large part thanks to ACC's participation in the 2019-2020 OpenStax Institutional Partner Program. The program, an initiative by Rice University, provides institutions with free coaching, training, and support with the goal of increasing the use of open educational resources (OER) — free, openly licensed high-quality teaching and learning materials such as textbooks, videos, and lesson plans.

A task force was created under the Office of the Associate Vice President of Academic Programs to support the OpenStax program. The task force, composed of 11 faculty and staff members, guided program decisions, and actively participated in direct tactics to promote OER adoption among faculty. Task force members offered professional development, training, webinars, and one-on-one faculty consultations.

"OER is an essential strategy in addressing equity disparity and improving outcomes for all students by offering free, unfettered access to essential course materials on the first day of class," says Dr. Jack O'Grady, OpenStax task force lead and ACC biology professor. "Additionally, OER empowers faculty choice, offering the freedom to customize the curriculum, shifting away from textbook-driven outcomes toward learner-centered classrooms."

As part of the program, OER grant opportunities encouraged faculty to adopt, customize, or create OER for their courses in place of commercial textbooks and are showcased here.

The task force recently released a report on the outcomes of the program. Below are some of the report highlights.

  • In the 2019-20 academic year, 1,822 ZTC sections were offered, saving 43,411 students an estimated $4.3 million in textbook costs.
  • More than 200 faculty members participated in development programs; 77 received $42,740 in grants.
  • The majority of faculty who participated in the development programs report they will continue to use OER in the coming year.
  • 154 faculty and staff successfully completed ACC Learn OER online training.

Read the full report here.

Anyone interested in learning more about OER can complete this online training and receive two hours of professional development credit.