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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake Community College's initiative that uses free online educational resources in its math curriculum is getting national attention.
The approach cuts students' textbook costs and ensures they are ready to go the first day of class.
SLCC's math department was recently awarded the Digital Learning Innovation award by the Online Learning Consortium during the group's conference in Florida.
The award recognized both SLCC’s math department and the college’s Faculty Development and Educational Initiatives office's use of open educational resources or OER, which can be downloaded for free, edited and shared.
“SLCC is proud to be viewed as a national leader in the OER arena,” said Jason Pickavance, director of SLCC’s Faculty Development and Educational Initiatives office.
“Our aim is to always promote inclusive and equitable access to learning materials, helping make college more affordable and accessible to all.”
The math department leads SLCC’s open educational resource efforts with nearly 1,400 lesson sections that use the free resources.
“With the integration of OER into our learning management system, students have immediate access to learning materials from the first day of class,” said Suzanne Mozdy, associate dean of SLCC's mathematics department.
SLCC's math pathways program was designed "to help match their degree goals while significantly increasing their quantitative literacy achievement rates," a college press release states.
In an earlier interview, Pickavance said open educational resources particularly make sense in mathematics because many concepts haven't changed for hundreds of years.
"The idea that an algebra text would need to go into a fifth, sixth or 10th edition is, in many cases, indefensible," he said.
The idea that an algebra text would need to go into a fifth, sixth or 10th edition is, in many cases, indefensible.
–Jason Pickavance, SLCC
The use of open educational resources dovetails nicely with other SLCC initiatives to make college more accessible and affordable, he said.
More than 80 percent of SLCC students surveyed in 2016 reported that they have delayed buying textbooks because of cost. More than half of SLCC students said they registered for fewer for courses due to textbook costs, according to the survey by the Open Education Group and the Utah Academic Libraries Consortium.
Nearly one-third of all sections of math and English offered by SLCC use open educational resources.
The numbers of SLCC class sections that use open education resources has increased from 32 in 2014 to 1,771 in 2018.
Salt Lake Community College is Utah’s only accredited community college and serves some 60,000 students a year, who include traditional, degree-seeking students, people seeking workforce training and others.