Foothill-De Anza Community College District received a statewide technology award for developing a national consortium to make educational resources freely available online.
The district is putting textbooks and other course materials online to lower the cost of higher education.
The California Community College Board of Governors presented the 2008 Technology Focus Award to the district for its work on the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources.
The consortium, established by the district in 2007 and made up of 85 community colleges, promotes the development of online-instructional material for community college faculty and students. In March 2008, the consortium launched the Community College Open Textbook Project with a $527,000 grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
The first free online textbook, "Collaborative Statistics," was released in August 2008. The consortium worked in conjunction with Rice University's Connexions, an open-educational-resources site (cnx.org), to republish the book. Now the 611-page textbook can be downloaded in about 15 seconds.
De Anza College mathematics professor Barbara Illowsky and retired De Anza mathematics professor Susan Dean co-authored the original statistics book, which has been used for over a decade by California community colleges.
The authors were aware that more and more students were struggling to pay for textbooks and were eager to create an open textbook on the Internet.
Illowsky is working to make her statistics course, including lesson plans, videotaped lectures, homework, quizzes and exams, available online.
Illowsky's effort is just one example of how the district's faculty is working to expand their online-educational resources.
"This work provides us with a vision for how the Internet can be leveraged to deliver high quality educational content to students without the cost of traditional textbooks," Kanter said. "It offers a way to increase access to higher education for students and teachers around the world at no or low cost."
Kanter accepted the award on Jan. 12, with Judy Baker, who directs the consortium and the open textbook project. Baker said,
"Open textbooks afford faculty the opportunity to reclaim greater control over their curriculum by making it convenient to explore feasible alternatives to high-cost publishers' textbooks. [Online educational resources also allow faculty to customize the content to best suit the regional or local needs of their students, rather than having to adjust their instruction to match the publisher' textbooks."
In 2004, district Trustee Hal Plotkin proposed a district policy encouraging open educational resources in an effort to lower the cost of textbooks and educational materials. He praised Foothill-De Anza faculty and administrators' for their hard work in providing educational resources online.
"These academic leaders are demonstrating a new way to serve students that deploys scarce resources more efficiently while also improving the quality of teaching and learning," Plotkin said.