A place to log ideas and thoughts

George Veletsianos, PhD

Category: oer

Zed Creds at Royal Roads

There’s a lot of work happening in the province of BC around OER and Zed Creds/Degrees, much of it facilitated by government funding, the expert guidance of BCCampus, and early adopters such as Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

With my colleagues Elizabeth Childs and Jo Axe, we’ve been slowly transitioning our MA and Graduate Diploma in Learning and Technology into Zed Creds. A press release yesterday announced that we completed the process.

For our students, this means no textbooks to purchase and greater transparency on the full cost of their program.

For our faculty, this means more freedoms to work with OER than with copyrighted materials to achieve desired outcomes.

For the field of educational technology, this means that we now have an example of an MA degree that is completely textbook-free and mostly OER-based. Zed Degrees aren’t just for other disciplines and aren’t just for diplomas/certificates.

So you want to publish your #edtech or digital learning book in an open access format?

Every now and then someone asks me whether I know of any non-commercial publishers that don’t charge thousands of dollars in OA fees to publish open access books in the field. In this post, I’ll share two such efforts that I support:

  1. A new venue for your open access book publishing in our area is EdTechBooks.org Not only is this project ingenious, I believe it will quickly scale and grow into something extraordinary. I have a long personal and professional connection to the people running this project, so take that prediction with a grain of salt. If you’re interested in publishing with them, contact them at admin@edtechbooks.org
  2. Athabasca University Press publishes the award-winning Issues in Distance Education book series. Partly because AU Press is one of the few university presses that publish books in open access formats in our field and partly because I’d like to help expand the conversations that we are having in our field I recently agreed to co-edit this series with Dr. Terry Anderson. If you’re interested in publishing with AU Press feel free to contact me. As far as my personal interests go, I am keen to support and see more books from:
  • Under-represented authors, such as women and people of color, whose perspectives and research on topics pertaining to digital education challenge the dominant ways of thinking.
  • Authors who are interrogating various aspects of the history of the field.
  • Authors who are conducting rich ethnographic work (e.g., What’s life like as an instructional designer? What’s it like at an online program management company?)
  • Authors who are conducting critical investigations of various aspects of the field, such as for example, interrogating discourses pertaining to online learning, or interrogating issues relating to power and privilege.
  • Authors whose work provides practical recommendations for addressing the significant challenges and tensions that our community is facing.


Are there any other non-commercial open access publishers in the area that you would recommend?

A list of Z-degrees and Zed Creds

On Twitter last week I asked whether anyone had created a list of available a Zed Creds and Z-Degrees. As a way of definition BCcampus writes: “a Zed Cred/Z-Degree is a set of courses in a specific program area that allows a student to earn a credential, such as an associate degree or certificate program, with zero textbook costs by way of using open educational resources and/or free library materials.”

It’s easy to find lists of colleges and universities working on these, but much harder to find specifics (e.g., what are the main credentials? what are the main disciplines? and so on). Through Rajiv Jhangiani, I learned that Richard Sebastian had created one such list of Z-degree, Zed Cred, and OER Degree programs. If you cite this list, please use the following attribution: Created by Richard Sebastian, Achieving the Dream.

So, there’s a list and we can all help improve it.

But, we had an interesting conversation on Twitter that I am going to rehash here, partly because it relates to the list, partly because my Twitter posts are automatically deleted and that conversation will eventually consist of fragments. David Wiley asked: “Are you looking for programs that use OER (even if there is some cost to students) or programs that are completely free to students (even if there is some All Rights Reserved content used)?”

This question relates to ongoing effort in the field to disambiguate terms and intentions. Both Z -degrees and OER degrees may be one and the same and may cost zero to students. But, they may also cost zero to students and consist of entirely different (non-OER) materials. A Z-degree for instance may consist of copyrighted library resources that require no additional costs to students to access (e.g., a seminal piece of work that faculty deem necessary to include). Library resources aren’t “free,” of course as students pay for them through tuition and fees. But beyond cost, the core argument here is that the permissions that OER enable are expected to lead to more effective and worthwhile teaching and learning experiences.

And here’s the final caveat: Imagine a typical course that uses a commercial textbook. Now consider that course being redesigned such that it exclusively uses library resources. Imagine an instructional designer and a librarian working with a faculty member (or two) to identify resources, define learning objectives, create activities, and align assessments. The permissions that the library materials allow won’t match the ones that OER allow, but the benefits of OER use reported in the literature don’t always just come from OER – they also come through the redesign process. This is not a dispute with OER. Rather, it’s an argument for instructional design. Or, learning design, or learning engineering. Alas, disambiguating these terms is probably best left for a different post altogether.


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