In recent years Canada and the U.S. have targeted efforts to create credential pathways where faculty and students use only OER or zero cost instructional materials. These pathways are more commonly called Zed Creds in Canada (Lambert, 2018) and OER or Z- Degrees in the US. It is well documented that the significant cost of textbooks which are common in higher education programs in North America present a barrier to student success and timely completion (Florida Virtual Campus, 2016, p.5, p.10) and have a greater adverse effect on traditionally underrepresented low-income and minority students. (Griffiths, et. al, 2018, p.11).
Higher education is a key indicator for social mobility with unemployment rates for 4-year college graduates at about half of the US national average (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). Enrollments of traditionally underrepresented student populations have grown significantly over the last 20 years but equity gaps remain with low completion and graduation rates. Z-Degree programs have been seen as a solution to increasing graduation rates particularly for low income and minority students but early findings have shown low student awareness of these programs. Students who work more than 20 hours per week were less likely to have heard about these opportunities. (Griffiths, et. al, 2018, p.12)
As Z-Degree programs shift from pilot phase into full implementation, it is helpful to consider how the focus on open and zero-cost instructional materials serve the overarching social justice goals of open education. Using Fraser’s Social Justice Framework as adapted here (Hodgkinson-Williams, C. A., et. al., 2018), the panelists and audience members will be asked to engage in a critical interrogation of the initiatives. The following questions will be addressed by panelist for their context and participants will be invited to contribute ideas to improve the current implementations to ensure equity and access is broadened.
• Are the Zed Creds/Z-Degrees initiatives ameliorative or transformative from a student, faculty, or institutional perspective? Why or why not?
• If they are simply ameliorative, what are considerations and steps toward making them transformative? Is transformation a goal?
• How do we ensure that a Z-degree does not create new barriers (accessibility, digital divide)?
• Outside of the Canada/US context, what elements of the Zed Creds/Z-Degrees pathways are applicable?
Introduction (10 mins)
Overview of Fraser’s Social Justice Framework as adapted for open education
Context of Z-degrees/ZedCreds in US and Canada: where, why, how; expected impact, results to date.
Panelists respond to the four main questions described above based on their implementation context. Thereafter, the audience is invited to respond. The audience is also asked whether / how Fraser’s Social Justice Framework applies.
Big Question #1 (10 mins)
Big Question #2 (10 mins)
Big Question #3 (10 mins)
Big Question #4 (10 mins)
Conclusion (5 minutes)
Audience input is summarized.
Based on audience input, panelists describe next steps for their projects.
Florida Virtual Campus. (2016). 2016 Florida Student Textbook & Course Materials Survey. Tallahassee, FL.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development and Office of the Under Secretary, Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education, Washington, D.C., 2016.
Lambert, K., (2018), Zed Creds are zooming ahead in B.C., Retrieved Nov 28, 2018, https://bccampus.ca/2018/03/06/zed-creds-are-zooming-ahead-in-b-c/
Griffiths, R., Gardner, S., Lundh, P., Shear, L., Ball, A., Mislevy, J., Wang, S., Desrochers, D., Staisloff, R. (2018). Participant Experiences and Financial Impacts: Findings from Year 2 of Achieving the Dream’s OER Degree Initiative. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
Hodgkinson-Williams, C. A., & Trotter, H. (2018). A Social Justice Framework for
Understanding Open Educational Resources and Practices in the Global South. Journal of Learning for Development , 5 (3), 204-224.