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FRCC provides convenient, free textbooks and materials that are accessible for all students.

Equal access. Those two words are at the heart of open education, which aims to expand educational opportunities for all.

During Open Education Week (March 4-8), Front Range Community College joins institutions, organizations and people around the world in celebrating open education. This annual initiative raises awareness and highlights innovative open education successes worldwide.

This is also a great time to reflect on the strides FRCC has made in providing open educational resources (OER) to many of our students through the work of our dedicated faculty and staff. One of FRCC’s academic programs has now fully transitioned to only using free open educational resources in all of its classes.

What Are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

The Community College Consortium for OER—of which the Colorado Community College System is a member—defines OER as:

“Teaching, learning and research materials that are in the public domain or licensed in a way that allows anyone to use them for free.”

An open license permits users to make their own copy of the content, adapt it, combine the content with other OER, and share copies of the content (original or revised) with others.

OER in Early Childhood Education

teacher with two young children

FRCC’s Early Childhood Education program had already been incorporating online learning materials into its courses when the college received funding from the Colorado OER Grant Program in 2019. Today, the program exclusively uses OER—including online textbooks, articles, webinars, videos and more.

Front Range early childhood education students can choose from two degrees and four certificates, all of which are offered 100% online.

“As a career-technical program designed to prepare students to earn jobs in a high-demand field, we know how important convenience is to our students,” says Mernie Rosenberg, early childhood education instructor.

Saving Students Money

That was one reason behind the move to OER, but an even bigger one was to save students money.

“Our primary motivation to adopt OER was to make our programs even more affordable for students,” Mernie says.

“But the other good thing about OER is that it gives instructors the freedom and creativity to teach classes in the way they want to. They can incorporate a range of online media and materials, which enriches what they can do with the class.”

High-Quality Course Materials

Faculty member Mikayla Martinez says the online structure of the early childhood education programs lends itself well to using OER. “We have students from all over Colorado and some from out of state, so it makes it easier to centralize all course materials in one place for them,” she says.

Fortunately, Mikayla adds, there are several excellent sources that FRCC instructors rely on for early childhood education OER, including:

Accessibility for All

hands holding a tablet

For students with learning or other disabilities, OER is inherently helpful. “Content can be accessed by students in different ways,” Mikayla says.

“Students who need to use the text-to-speech technology or enlarge font size can easily do so. I think in that sense, OER can break down barriers to accessibility.”

Convenient for Busy Students

FRCC student Elizabeth Cunningham started working on her Associate of Arts (AA) degree in early childhood education in fall 2023. She works full time at a daycare and preschool in Longmont, and chose FRCC for its reputation and the convenience of online learning.

She says having OER at her fingertips allows her to be efficient with her study time. “It’s easier to quickly find something in an online textbook rather than a physical textbook.”

As a digital native, Elizabeth says that OER fit her learning style. “I have access to all the online resources and digital content when I need them, wherever I am, and I especially like that all assignments are on my computer. That means no lost papers or other materials.”

Easy Access = More Efficient Study Time

For early childhood education student Melanie Nolasco—who started her AA degree in 2022 and will transfer to the Metropolitan State University of Denver—the program’s use of OER was a welcome bonus.

“Knowing that I didn’t have to buy books for my classes and that everything I need to learn is online was a nice surprise,” she says. “Obviously, the cost saving is a big benefit, but OER also makes things easier on me as a student who is also a mom of three active kids.”

“When I turn on the computer to do school, everything I need is right there.”

Enhanced Learning

In addition to the convenience of OER, Melanie says that the variety of resources enhances her education. “Videos were really helpful in my math class to explain concepts,” she says.

“Websites offer current research and information about different topics. I like how accessible it all is and that I don’t have to carry heavy books and around with me.”

Timely and Relevant

Early childhood education is not unlike other industries: Regulations change.

Case in point: the new Colorado Universal Preschool Program, which allows all children to receive up to 15 hours of free preschool (or more for qualifying families) the year before kindergarten.

“Open resources allow us to update our materials in a timely manner,” Mernie says. “We can add more resources to ensure our program is accurate and relevant for students and we can hone in on topics as they become pertinent.”

Learn more about Open Education Week.

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