OER/ZTC Courses Are Saving BMCC Students Thousands of Dollars and Energizing Pedagogy

March 27, 2019

Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) Interim President Karrin Wilks hosted a celebratory reception for Team Open—faculty who have redesigned their courses after completing Open Educational Resources (OER), Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) training— on March 21 at the Shirley Fiterman Arts Center.

“The OER/ZTC effort demonstrates how we can all contribute to the culture of care,” said Wilks. She called OER/ZTC initiative “a very powerful tool” that not only supports equity but also student learning.

Since the BMCC OER/ZTC initiative’s inception in Spring 2015, BMCC has been leading the way both at CUNY and among colleges across the nation. Spearheaded by BMCC Open Knowledge Librarian Jean Amaral, more than 225 faculty members, representing almost every academic department, count themselves among Team Open. There are also several BMCC faculty who have not participated in Team Open training, but are redesigning their courses to include OER/ZTC materials instead of cost prohibitive textbooks.

By the fall 2018 semester, BMCC offered around 500 OER/ZTC class sections out of nearly 4,400 total class sections offered. So far, the OER/ZTC initiative at BMCC has saved approximately 50,000 students an estimated $6 million in textbook costs since the program began in 2015, according to BMCC’s A. Phillip Randolph Memorial Library. In December 2018, the college reached a milestone when it announced criminal justice majors can potentially complete the entire degree program without ever having to purchase a textbook.

Estimates show more than half of CUNY students come from households with annual incomes of less than $20,000. For many students, including those at BMCC, the average $1,200 each year for books and other supplies can be a barrier to academic success.

Redesigning Courses in Support of Equity and Student Learning

Earlier this year, BMCC library staff conducted a survey asking students what they would do with the money they might save by not purchasing textbooks. The top answer was buy food, followed by other expenses such as rent, clothes, MetroCards, healthcare and other bills.

In addition to saving students money, several BMCC faculty who have redesigned their courses in an effort to provide OER/ZTC have reported better academic performance, which falls in line with what some studies point to as national trends.

Students who use OER materials find them to be accessible, relevant and engaging, according to 2018 data from education non-profit organization Achieving the Dream. Over 60 percent of students reported that the overall quality of their learning experience in an OER course was higher in comparison to a typical, non- OER course the data says.

Transforming Course Materials Through ZTC/OER

Although some faculty may find any redesign of classroom material daunting, others say the training and rigorous work that goes into the effort is exciting and fulfilling.

Music & Art Professor Quentin Angus who did the two full-day training sessions and redesigned his course work during the summer, said the training starts with a syllabus redesign.

“A lot of my classes were already ZTC, but there are other courses, such as a required musical appreciation course, where the textbook cost is $140. Students were asking if there was any way to get around buying it,” said Angus.

He said the move to OER/ZTC was not just about replacing the textbook with something else, it is a chance to rethink the pedagogy and the course itself.

Criminal Justice Professor Michelle Ronda called the work an energizing process that freed her teaching from the confines of a textbook and reawakened the creativity in how she taught her course.

“The process of moving to open-and alternatively sourced educational materials also encouraged faculty to expand their thinking as scholars and teachers to take full advantage of the plethora of information in the ever-changing, digitally-driven world we live in,” said Ronda.

Mathematics Professor Chris McCarthy said he uses OER/ZTC materials in all his classes, some that he created himself, others a mixture of material he finds online supplemented by his own materials.

“I’ve been in the OER movement for a long time. When I started, there wasn’t a lot of good OER material available, so I wrote my own. Now, there is some good OER math out there, “said McCarthy.

Amaral said the reception was an opportunity, provided by Interim President Karrin Wilks to recognize the contribution BMCC OER/ZTC faculty are making to student equity and success.

“A lot of people focus on the textbook costs when they think about ZTC/OER, but what that translates to is that students have access to the course material on day one,” said Amaral

She said if all students can access all the course materials on day one, that is not only a significant contribution to equity at BMCC but also a contribution to the possibility of student success.

“When it comes down to it, this is about pedagogy”, said Amaral. “Our faculty are doing transformative work within OER/ZTC. They are so far ahead of the rest of CUNY in what they are doing, this was just a gift to me to be able to say thank you to these over 200 faculty who are doing this amazing work with our students,” she said.

In addition to Amaral, the OER/ZTC Initiative Team includes: Gina Cherry, director of CETLS, Kathleen Dreyer chief librarian as well as Katy Anastasi, Alison Slon and Victoria Dolan are also members of BMCC’s OER Initiative team.

Team Open Members by Department:

Academic Literacy and Linguistics—Katherine Figueroa, Kate Garrison, Megan Dunphy, James Michel, Brian Kelley, Ewa Barnes, David Marshall, Deniz Gokcora, Timothy Leonard, Tuvi Voorhees, Jennifer Delfino, Joshua Belknap, Sharon Avni, Allan Leibman

Accounting—La-Dana Jenkins

Business—Peter Mayer, Shawn Jackson, Julian Schroeder, Michelle Wang, Hung Chu, Mary Padula, Roderick S. Snipes, Mahatapa Palit, Shamira Malekar, Peter Hoontis, MaryBeth Bergren, Shawn Grant

Center for Ethnic Studies—Rigoberto Andino, Patricia Mathews-Salazar

Computer Information Science— Yan Chen, Candido Hernandez

English—Catherine Cammileri, Kelly Secovnie, Cynthia Lam, Page Delano, Geoffrey Klock, David Bahr, Celeste Conway, Marian Stewart-Titus, Rodney Alvarado, Keridiana Chez, Tracy Bealer, Khristina Narizhnaya, Florence Homolka, Catherine Perry, Christa Baiada, Holly Messit, Rochelle Rives, Aimee Record, Amy Lawless, Andrew Powell, Jean Kahler, Tiffany Wilkins, Leigh Gold, Elida DeKlein, Rene Vasicek, Van Havercome, Adrienne Urbanski, Adele Kudish, Racquel Goodison, Jason Schneiderman, Syreeta McFadden, Ahmand Wilson, Sheila Maldonado

Health Education— Michael McGee, Yuliya Shneyderman, Jason Bravo, Lesley Rennis, Patricia DeFillippo

Mathematics—Audrey Nasar, Chris McCarthy, Fatima Prioleau, Nkechi Agwu, Ke XinThierry Agbotouedo, Yu Gu, Andrew Stout, Hong Yuan, Matthew Meangru, Johannes Familton, Aradhana Kumari, Gary Welz, Yevgeniy Milman, Ruben Worrell, Lina Wu, Misun Kim, Omar Chakhtoun, Baba Toure, Anandaraj Ponnambalam, Yi Han

Media Arts and Technology—Anastassios Rigopoulos, Anna Pinkas, George Robinson, Sam Sloves, M. George Stevenson, Jamal Sullivan, Carlo Diego

Modern Languages—Eda Henao, Marilyn Rivera Ayala, Evelin Gamarra-Martinez, Silvia Alvarez-Olarra, Sameh El Naggar, Valerie Thiers-Thiam, Rachel Corkle, Izzy De Moya, Jonathan Cayer, Maria Enrico, Laurie Lomask, Angeles Donoso Macaya, Martine Gauthier, Francisca Suarez-Coalla, Edward Nevarez

Music and Art—Janice Mahinka, Maureen Keenan, Jin-ok Lee, Yan Yang, Eugenia Oi Yan Yau, Helena Shaskevich, Rosemary George, John Parran, John Uehlein, Quentin Angus, Suna Chung, Ina Litera, David Wozniak, Matthew Goeke, Barbara Podgurski

Nursing—Edna Askness

Science—Luis Gonzalez-Urbina, Chirag Raval, Shana Tribiano, Daniel Torres Rangel, Carlos Chaparro, Melissa Yee, Jian Zhang, Katarzyna Chung, Song Chung, Steve Beyer

Social Sciences, Human Services and Criminal Justice—Luis Gonzalez-Urbina, Chirag Raval, Shana Tribiano, Daniel Torres Rangel, Carlos Chaparro, Melissa Yee, Jian Zhang, Katarzyna Chung, Song Chung, Steve Beyer, Diana Rickard, Rose Kim,Yana Durmyshevas, Albert Bramante. Hirosuke Hyodo, Pamela Edstrom, Paoyi Huang, Samvel Jeshmaridian, Nicholas Malkov, Soniya Munshi, Brenda Vollman, Shirley Leyro, Monica Foust, Melissa Brown, Kelly Rodgers, Ali Syed, Bettina B, Scott Schwartz, Hemalatha Navaratne, Andres Colapinto, Elsa Edwards, Mateo, Sancho Cardiel, Stefan Stankovic, Esin Egit, Schneur Newfield, Shama Greenidge, Oluremi Alapo

Deborah Gambs, Lawrence Elcock, Theodora Leontaridis, Jamie Warren, Cara O’Connor, Glenny Valoy, Lisa Rose, Herbert Fischer, Inga Saitadze, Lina Villegas, Debra Greenwood, Vernon Smith, Man Wai Lun, Barry Polinsky, Beatrice Phillips, Daniel Prelipcian, Khushmand Rajendran,, Irasema DeJesus, Mira Antoun, Shenique Davis, Maksim Vak, David Caicedo

Speech, Communications and Theatre Arts—Suzanne Schick, Arnold Bueso, Daphnie Sicre, Scott Tulloch, James Webb, Hollis Glaser, Benjamin Powell, Bertha Ferdman, Elizabeth Chaney, Benjamin Haas,Sherry Engle, Christopher Jackson, Brianne Waychoff, Karl O’Brian Williams, David Emanuel , Anuradha Herath, Ayleen James, Jill Strauss, Norman Kagan, Marcus Dargan, Bethany Hines, Ashwini Kadave, Nicole Rousseau, Christina Neubrand, Gregg Gordon, Angela Elbanna, Rebecca Collier, Karim Muasher, Kate Sweeney, Alvin Eng, Georgette Clay, Cristian Amigo

Teacher Education—Mindi Reich-Shapiro, Kirsten Cole, Meghan Fitzgerald Raimundo

Jen Longley


  • President’s reception recognizes faculty who have redesigned courses to OER/ZTC
  • More than 225 faculty members have completed training and redesigned courses
  • BMCC library estimates OER/ZTC has saved students around $6 million

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