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School of Mathematical Sciences Wins Open Educational Resources Award from State

October 29, 2020

Colorado Governor Jared Polis named six winners of his Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) Challenge, which encourages Colorado institutions of higher education to increase access, equity and affordability for college students by expanding the use of open educational resources (OER).

The University of Northern Colorado’s School of Mathematical Sciences was awarded the “Outstanding Z Department” award.

Jen Mayer, chair of the UNC OER Committee, wrote in an email, “This recognition from Governor Polis is not surprising, given the commitment by the Math department to save students money, adopt and create open educational resources and implement innovative teaching practices.”

Read the letter submitted by the UNC OER Committee nominating the school for the department award (PDF).

According to the press release from the Colorado Department of Higher Education, “Winners of the ZTC Challenge demonstrated exemplary performance and advocacy for OER and other Zero Textbook Cost initiatives in their classrooms and on their campuses.”

“This award and honor provide a stellar example of how UNC has leveraged work with open resources for the benefit of both students and faculty,” Mayer wrote.

Launched last fall, the Governor’s Challenge recognizes outstanding faculty, staff and programs promoting further implementation of OER, or high-quality, freely available textbooks and learning materials.

Z Degrees, or zero textbook cost pathways, offer students an opportunity to undertake their program of study without spending additional money on textbooks. So far in Colorado, there are at least five such programs, with initiatives emerging across the state that provide students more affordable pathways to program completion.

“It’s inspiring to see the progress campuses and educators across Colorado are making in saving students money on textbooks the last few years through the open source educational resources.” said Gov. Polis. “We’re excited to see the cost savings for students and pursuit of accessible, equitable and high-quality curriculum for Colorado’s learners. I want to congratulate our award winners and all the individuals and programs making open source educational materials even more successful in our state.”

Over the past year, UNC faculty members helped students save a combined $92,570 in textbook fees by adopting OER into their curriculums with CDHE awarded grants. The fall 2020 semester includes a new UNC faculty cohort who recently received grants to transform their fall courses with OER.

On Oct. 1, the CDHE submitted the annual OER report to the General Assembly’s House and Senate Education and Joint Budget Committees, as well as to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. The report shows institutions of higher education exceeding their goals and saving students millions in the process. Survey results also demonstrate growth in awareness of and support for OER initiatives at the campus level.

Learn more about Colorado’s ZTC Challenge

—Written by Katie Corder