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From Zed Cred to ZTC: Clarifying what institutions really mean

B.C.’s colleges, universities, and institutes have learned to be careful when using the word “zero” to describe a course or program.

Post by Lauri Aesoph, Manager, Open Education

For the past several years post-secondary institutions across North America have been offering full certificates, diplomas, and degrees that rely solely on open educational resources–such as open textbooks–that cost nothing, and other free materials for enrolled students, in an effort to save them money.

The first zero textbook cost programs, started in the U.S., were called Z-Degrees. When Canadian colleges and universities began participating, the name changed to Zed Cred so the pronunciation of Z (zee) could be altered to the British/Canadian zed.

Unfortunately, these program labels caused confusion among international, and some domestic, students who thought a Zed Cred course or program meant they would earn zero or no credit. After discussion with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training and several post-secondary institutions in the province, BCcampus decided to re-label these as Zero Textbook Cost or ZTC courses and programs in its websites, support resources, and communications. A similar trend is happening in the U.S.

BCcampus first put out a call for applicants interested in funding for developing a ZTC programs in British Columbia two years ago. Kwantlen Polytechnic University, one of the grant recipients, was the first to offer a ZTC program in British Columbia and Canada. KPU now provides six ZTC programs ranging from Adult Graduation Diploma to a Certificate in Foundations in Design. “The primary goal of the Zero Textbook Cost initiative is to serve students by widening equitable access to education,” says Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, Associate Vice Provost of Open Education. “The new name more clearly conveys this to students while allowing for consistency in referring to ZTC sections, courses, programs, and degrees.”

Another recipient of the BCcampus ZTC program grant, Thompson Rivers University, will unveil its Certificate of General Studies as its first zero textbook cost offering during this academic year. Naomi, Cloutier, TRU’s Associate Director Curriculum Services, says “It has been exciting to be part of developing open educational resources that free students to concentrate on their studies and not their textbook costs.” She points out that doing so “will add momentum to a growing commitment at TRU to develop and adopt more OERs that will benefit our students.”

The Justice Institute of British Columbia, and third recipient of the ZTC program grant, sees its Law Enforcement Studies Diploma program students saving hundreds of dollars each year in textbook costs. Florence Daddey, with JIBC’s Centre for Teaching, Learning and Innovation, says “Implementing the ZTC program fulfills the Institute’s goals of creating flexible and affordable resources for students and increased accessibility to specialized programs.”

The Dean of Applied Research & Graduate Studies, Dr. Greg Anderson suggests that “incorporating open educational resources into programs supports JIBC’s Strategic and Educational Plans by supporting the use of technology and open educational resources in program delivery, and improving access and affordability of programs.”It is expected that hundreds of students will benefit from the continued support of ZTC initiatives, with students cumulatively saving over $60,000 on textbooks annually at JIBC.”

Notable Quote:

“The new name more clearly conveys … (zero textbook costs) to students while allowing for consistency in referring to ZTC sections, courses, programs, and degrees.” – Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani,Associate Vice Provost, Open Education at Kwantlen Polytechnic University

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