Governor Jared Polis Names ZTC Degree Challenge winners

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DENVER – Oct. 29, 2020: Governor Jared Polis named six winners of his Zero Textbook Cost Challenge, which encourages Colorado institutions of higher education to increase access, equity, and affordability for college students through expanding the use of open educational resources (OER). Launched last fall, the Governor's Challenge recognizes outstanding faculty, staff and programs promoting further implementation of OER, or high-quality, freely available textbooks and learning materials.
Z Degrees, or zero textbook cost pathways, offer students an opportunity to undertake their program of study without spending additional money on textbooks. So far in Colorado, there are at least five such programs, with initiatives emerging across the state that provide students more affordable pathways to program completion. The Department supports these efforts through training and resources to educators, including the ZTC+Equity self-paced, online course.
Winners of the ZTC Challenge demonstrated exemplary performance and advocacy for OER and other Zero Textbook Cost initiatives in their classrooms and on their campuses. Winners are recognized by Gov. Polis and the Department for their achievements over the last year or more.

  • Overall Excellence in Open Educational Resources & Practices -Colorado Community College System
  • Outstanding Z Department - School of Mathematical Sciences, University of Northern Colorado
  • Outstanding Z Professor - Professor Emily J. Ragan, MSU-Denver
  • Outstanding Z Program - Instructional Technology Certificates, MSU-Denver
  • Outstanding Z Course - Professor Medora Huseby, General Microbiology, Colorado State University
  • Outstanding Z Advocate - Marc Nash, Pikes Peak Community College 

OER is championed by so many contributors, including more than 50 grantees who propel work locally and through statewide collaboration. The below list includes those nominated for the Governor's ZTC Awards 2020:

  • CCCOnline
  • Colorado Northwestern Community College
  • Communication Department, PPCC
  • Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Metropolitan State University of Denver
  • Metropolitan State University of Denver
  • Public Speaking, MSU-Denver
  • Brittany Dudek, Colorado Community College System
  • Brenda Forland, Red Rocks Community College
  • Anders Fremstad, Colorado State University
  • Jennifer Mayer, University of Northern Colorado
  • Alex McDaniel, MSU-Denver
  • James Morski, Community College of Denver
  • Dr. Jonathan Poritz, Colorado State University-Pueblo
  • Melissa Randall, Community College of Denver
  • Dr. Chelsie Romulo, University of Northern Colorado
  • Raphael Sassower, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs
  • Terri Scrima, Arapahoe Community College
  • Dr. K. Xerxes Steirer, Colorado School of Mines
  • Angela Steele, University of Northern Colorado
  • Nicholas Swails, Colorado Northwestern Community College
  • Dr. James Wilson, Colorado State University

"It's inspiring to see the progress campuses and educators across Colorado are making in saving students money on textbooks the last few years through the open source educational resources." said Gov. Polis. "We're excited to see the cost savings for students and pursuit of accessible, equitable and high-quality curriculum for Colorado's learners. I want to congratulate our award winners and all the individuals and programs that are making open source educational materials even more successful in our state."
On October 1, the Department submitted the annual OER report to the General Assembly's House and Senate Education and Joint Budget Committees, as well as to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. The report shows institutions of higher education exceeding their goals and saving students millions in the process. Survey results also demonstrate growth in awareness of and support for OER initiatives at the campus level.
OER Grant Funds Available this Fall
More than $800,000 in funds are available this fall through the OER Grant Program and request for proposals. The Department plans to continue funding projects around the state aimed at innovating curriculum while also saving students money. The deadline for proposals is December 15.
"We want the innovative spirit of this work to carry on as we enter our third year of grant funding," said CDHE Executive Director Dr. Angie Paccione. "Investing in institutions' pursuit of OER opens so many doors for entrepreneurial approaches to education, and can offer students a more accessible, equitable and relevant learning experience."
OER in Colorado
OER are high-quality teaching, learning and research resources that permit free or repurposed use and are legally available to students for free or very low cost. Championed by the General Assembly in 2018, H.B. 18-1331 established the grant program and charged Colorado's OER Council with reviewing and administering the proposals. In its first year, the program yielded more than $3.9 million in textbook cost-savings for students, with projects ranging from individual course innovations, to system-wide efforts.
About the Colorado OER Council
The Colorado OER Council is a dynamic 15-member delegation designated by the executive director of CDHE who have been recognized nationally for their outstanding work. Members include experts from various disciplines comprised of faculty, instructional designers, digital experts, institutional administrators, state staffers and a student representative.