NCTC Joins Distance Minnesota Consortium To Utilize Open Educational Resources For Student Benefit

Thief River Falls, Minn./San Francisco, CA - Distance Minnesota has received a grant to create new degree programs using high quality open educational resources (OER) in new degree programs delivered by Alexandria Technical and Community College, Northland Community and Technical College and Northwest Technical College. The initiative, which involves 38 community colleges in 13 states, is designed to help remove financial roadblocks that can derail students’ progress and spur improvements that will increase the likelihood of degree and certificate completion.

The annual costs of textbooks are about $1,300 per year for a full-time community college student and amount to about a third of the cost of an Associate’s degree. This cost, research shows, is a significant barrier to college completion. Students who don’t complete college are over 50 percent more likely than those who graduated to cite textbook costs as a major financial barrier, according to a study by the research firm Public Agenda.

Equally important, using digital and interactive open educational resources such as open courseware will encourage faculty to teach students in more engaging and dynamic ways and invite students to become more actively involved in their own learning. The initiative’s requirement to create entire degree programs using OER also will trigger a careful re-examination of course content and sequencing to build up-to-date, cohesive degree programs. These degrees will be available to a minimum of 76,000 students over a three-year period.

At Distance Minnesota, new degrees using licensed content in the following programs over a three year period include:

  • Associate in Arts (A.A. with possible emphases in - science, technology, engineering and math; social and behavioral sciences; or, communications and humanities)
  • Health Sciences Broad Field, Associate in Science (A.S.)
  • Early Childhood Education, Associate of Science (A.S.)
Achieving the Dream, a national community college reform network, is managing the new OER Degree initiative on behalf of a consortium of investors that includes the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, the Shelter Hill Foundation, and the Speedwell Foundation.

“Beginning this summer, faculty at the consortium colleges of Distance Minnesota will take the lead in redesigning courses and degree programs. Over the next few years, students in these courses can expect to save 80 to 100 percent of the cost of textbooks and will benefit from using a reservoir of high quality content customized to the way today’s digital learners learn best.”

Dr. Teresa Theisen, online consortium director, is part of a team of leaders from Distance Minnesota attending the OER Degree Initiative launch event in San Franciscowith other representatives of the college. Dr. Theisen shared, “The OER Degree Initiative will create a library of high-quality, digital, open courses available to other institutions and the public at large. Making resources easily available to all is expected to encourage OER adoption even at non-participating institutions.”

Results of Previous Efforts

Colleges and states that have introduced OER initiatives have already seen significant results. Studies have shown that OER reduces costs and contributes to better grades, higher course completion rates, and faster degree completion.

Tidewater Community college based in South Hampton Roads, VA, for example, was the first community college to adopt an open educational resources degree which enables students to complete a two-year degree in business administration with no textbook costs. Tidewater’s “Z-Degree” program has experienced high student satisfaction levels, improved student retention, and an estimated 25 percent reduction in college costs for students (tuition and books).

Northern Virginia Community College’s pilot OER courses have increased pass rates by nine percent compared to non-OER courses.

A recent multi-school study found that students using OER took an average fall semester credit load of 13.3, compared to 11.1 credits for students using traditional books. If this holds, students using OER would complete their degrees a full year earlier for a 60 credit-hour degree.

How the Initiative Will Work

ATD will help colleges make OER degrees critical elements of their student success efforts. Lumen Learning will provide technical assistance, SRI International will evaluate the implementation, and the Community College Consortium of Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) will facilitate a community of practice.

At the completion of the Initiative, all approved OER courses will be available through a comprehensive, easily accessible online platform.

Achieving the Dream, Inc. is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping more community collegestudents, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree.

Colleges Participating in the OER Degree Initiative
AZ (1)Pima Community College
CA (2)Santa Ana College
West Hills College Lemoore
CT (1)Housatonic Community College
FL (2)Broward College
Florida State College at Jacksonville
MA (1)Bunker Hill Community College
MD (1)Montgomery College Foundation
MI (1)Bay College
MN (3)Distance Minnesota Consortium (Alexandria Technical and Community College, Northland Community and Technical College, Northwest Technical College)
NY (9)CUNY Consortium (Borough of Manhattan Community College, Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College)
SUNY Consortium (Clinton Community College, Herkimer Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College, Monroe Community College, Tompkins Cortland Community College
NC (1)Forsyth Technical Community College
TX (8)Odessa College
Texas Consortium: Alamo Community College system (Northeast Lakeview College, Northwest Vista College, Palo AltoCollege, San Antonio College, St. Philip’s College), Austin Community College, San Jacinto Community College
VA (6)Virginia Community College Consortium (Central Virginia Community College, Germanna Community College, Lord FairfaxCommunity College, Mountain Empire Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, Tidewater Community College)
WA (2)Lake Washington Institute of Technology
Pierce College
National Contacts:
Lynn Reddy (240)450-3830 or
Emily Wagner: (202)367-9104 or

Local Contact:
Carla Johanson (651) 201-1303 or

Northland Community and Technical College (NCTC) is a comprehensive college with campuses in Thief River Falls, MN, and East Grand Forks, MN. NCTC also has an aerospace site in Thief River Falls, MN, and a satellite site in Roseau, MN. NCTC offers certificates, diplomas, transfer courses, two-year degrees (A.A.S., A.S., A.A.) in more than 80 areas of study, workforce training and education programs. NCTC is a member of Minnesota State, the fourth-largest system of two-year colleges and four-year universities in the United States, and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. NCTC is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer. For more information about Northland Community & Technical College, visit or call 1.800.959.6282.