Zero Textbook Cost Degree Toolkit

1 Why Create a Zero Textbook Cost Degree or Certificate?

Just as using Open Educational Resources (OER) can provide tremendous cost savings for students as well as impact student success and completion rates, so can a Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) Degree. The cost of textbooks can be a financial burden on students, which not only affects student success but can also delay graduation for students who are taking fewer classes per term because of that cost, further increasing financial costs for students over time. OER and ZTC Degrees allow students to have learning materials right from the start of their courses. This is not a negligible point, as the results of the Florida Virtual Campus’ 2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey show: 66.6 percent of surveyed students did not purchase a required textbook because of the cost, which these students felt resulted in them earning a poor grade (37.6 percent) or earning a failing grade (19.8 percent). 47.6 percent of students surveyed also indicated that they have taken fewer courses occasionally or frequently, 45.5 percent did not register for a course, 26.1 percent dropped a course, and 20.7 percent withdrew from a course because of the cost of required textbooks.[1]

What is a Zero Textbook Cost Degree or Certificate?

In a Z Degree (in the United States) or Zed Cred degree (in Canada) a student is able to complete a degree or certificate without having to pay for or purchase a textbook or course pack. Course materials are usually digitally delivered which also eliminates the printer cost for resources, although a paid for print option may be available. Ideally all material in a ZTC Degree will be Open Educational Resources (OER) licenced under a Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 licence. For example, Tidewater Community College established their pilot ZTC Degree using entirely OER.[2]  However, one common misconception is that all material in a ZTC Degree needs to be an Open Educational Resource (OER). ZTC course material can also include licenced electronic library resources, delivered to students in a password protected E-Reserve system or Learning Management System (LMS), public domain or OER materials, and links to public material on the web that is not behind a paywall. For example Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia uses OER and library licenced material in their Zero Textbook Cost courses.[3] Your institution may even assess that they want to include materials that are made available via the copyright exceptions fair use (in the United States) or fair dealing (in Canada) and delivered in a password protected LMS.

This video talks about the benefits of a planned Zero Textbook Cost “Z-Degree” relying solely on OER being launched in an Associate in Arts Degree at Central Lakes College, Minnesota.[4] Transcript for the video.

Material in “Why Create a Zero Textbook Cost Degree or Certificate?” is closely adapted from “Why OER: Benefits for Students” licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


  1. Florida Virtual Campus. (2016). 2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey Results and Findings. Draft. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=forums&srcid=MTQyNzIxNTYzNjQ5MjAxMzU4NjcBMTUwNDQwNDYyMDgzMDcyMDg5NTYBV2JaTGJMclBBQUFKATAuMgEBdjI
  2. DeMarte, D., and L. Williams. (2015). The “Z-degree”: Removing textbook costs as a barrier to student success through an OER-based curriculum. Retrieved from: https://www.scribd.com/document/256155220/Z-Degree-Report-2015-Tidewater-Community-College
  3. Kwantlen Polytechnic University. (n.d.). KPU classes - with $0 for textbooks! Retrieved from http://www.kpu.ca/open/zedcred
  4. Lakeland PBS. (2017, Oct 19). New Zero Textbook Cost Degree Offered At CLC. Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YZ_ogf4eZc Licenced under a Creative Commons CC BY licence

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Zero Textbook Cost Degree Toolkit by Ann Ludbrook, Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book