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NOVA-ELI Shares Open Degree Pathway, Enabling Any College to Offer a Zero Textbook Cost College Degree

FAIRFAX, Va. and PORTLAND, Ore. (Nov. 16, 2015) – For colleges everywhere, offering a zero textbook cost degree program became easier today as Northern Virginia Community College’s Extended Learning Institute (ELI) and open courseware provider Lumen Learning announced a collaboration to publish 24 online college courses for two complete degree programs. All courses were developed for zero student cost using open educational resources (OER) (i.e., no textbooks, just public access Internet).

NOVA is the first community college to fully share its OER degree pathways and courses. Building on this pioneering work, other members of the education community can map courses to their own degree requirements, adapt them to fit their own learning outcomes, and offer complete OER-based degree programs of their own.

“From the very beginning, NOVA’s efforts with OER courses and degree programs have been about both increasing student success and creating material to be shared with more educators to impact more students,” said Dr. Wm. Preston Davis, director of instructional services. “With open degree pathways, we provide a huge boost to students who can’t afford textbooks, and we put them on a clearer path towards completion. We want to see the entire education community provide this tremendous benefit.”

The courses now available through NOVA and Lumen Learning were originally developed by ELI, which has offered zero textbook cost certificates and degree programs since 2013. Now available as open, "zELI” courses (z for zero textbook cost from ELI), they fulfill all requirements for NOVA’s Certificate in General Studies, as well as associate degrees in General Studies and Social Sciences. The courses are being published with open, Creative Commons licenses, allowing anyone to freely use, revise, remix and repurpose the materials.

“NOVA has been in the vanguard of wide scale adoption of OER, and it is a significant milestone for its well-developed OER degree pathways to become openly available to the entire education community,” said Dr. Cable Green, director of global learning for Creative Commons. “NOVA and the ELI faculty are taking bold steps to show educators everywhere what is now possible with open education.”

To make zELI courses broadly available, NOVA is collaborating with Lumen Learning to build the courses in Lumen’s flexible platform designed expressly for OER-based courses. The collection of zELI courses is freely available through the Lumen website. Institutions may opt to use Lumen’s extremely low-cost, paid support for zELI courses, which covers faculty training, technical support, the ability to fully customize course materials, integration into any major LMS, and guidance around OER program design.

“We are delighted to join with the NOVA team in making this body of work available to the education community,” said Dr. David Wiley, chief academic officer of Lumen Learning. “Open degree pathways and OER courses give colleges essential building blocks to rapidly develop and offer their own zero textbook cost degree programs. We know from OER adoption patterns that a degree program is a game-changer in terms of generating momentum and scaling the positive impact on students.”

To date, more than 10,000 students have enrolled in NOVA ELI courses yielding textbook cost savings of over $1.5 million over two years. According to Dr. Davis, the ELI team of faculty, instructional designers and librarians was careful to select core, high-enrollment courses that can impact as many students as possible, regardless of specific course of study. At the same time, the team looked beyond individual courses to create depth and quality around full pathways for students to earn an entire degree.

According to TJ Bliss, program officer in the Education Program at the Hewlett Foundation, “This step by NOVA goes far towards putting OER degree programs within reach for other colleges. It gives academic leaders a vision of what is now possible in open education, as well as the means to get there. For institutions struggling with affordability and access, OER degree programs can catalyze systemic change towards open education, and colleges can reap the benefits in terms of student success.”

The first set of zELI courses is now available for subjects listed in the table below.  Links to these courses and a full list of the 24 zELI courses are available on the Lumen Learning website.


zELI Courses Now Available

  • Introduction to Communication
  • Principles of Macroeconomics
  • College Composition I
  • Introduction to Computer Applications and Concepts
  • Mathematics for the Liberal Arts I
  • Mathematics for the Liberal Arts II
  • Music Appreciation I
  • Introduction to the Study of Religion


For More Information

Lumen Learning

Julie Curtis, VP Strategy & Communications | 503-840-5569 | julie@lumenlearning.com


Northern Virginia Community College

Kathy Thompson, Director of Media Relations  |  703-764-0896  |  kthompson@nvcc.edu



About Lumen Learning

Lumen Learning helps higher education institutions improve affordability, access and student success by supporting wide-scale adoption of open educational resources (OER). We provide low-cost supported open courseware to help institutions transition high enrollment courses to OER. Lumen’s supported courseware has been used by over 60 higher education institutions, including six of the 20 largest U.S. community colleges. Lumen courseware typically reduces total spend on textbooks and course materials by 90%, while often achieving improvements in student success upwards of 10%. Educational resources created by Lumen are published under the Creative Commons Attribution license and contributed back to the education community. Visit us at lumenlearning.com. Follow us on Twitter at @LumenLearning.

©2015 Lumen Learning Inc. Lumen Learning and the Lumen logo are trademarks of Lumen Learning, Inc. This release is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.  

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.