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Colleges Converge in Visalia to Talk Textbooks, Cost-Cutting | Business

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Colleges Converge in Visalia to Talk Textbooks, Cost-Cutting
Business, Events, Schools
Colleges Converge in Visalia to Talk Textbooks, Cost-Cutting

California Community College Faculty, administrators and a team of professionals are meeting in Visalia this week to transform textbook production and costs, a project that would collectively save future students millions of dollars and revolutionize the way educational materials are compiled and delivered.

Called Convergence 2, it is the second in a series at which working groups get together to advance the goals of their educational reform efforts and develop what educators call “open source” textbooks. The process includes pulling textbook materials from already existing sources on the web, thoroughly vetting the data by faculty and professionals in the field, and producing online content that students will ultimately print or download to their phones, tablets or computers. The work is funded by a Federal grant from the Department of Labor.

“Under the grant, we’re developing open source textbooks,” said Sherry Barragan, R.N., Psychiatric Technician Instructor at West Hills Community College District, the lead school in the 11 college partnership called C6 (Central California Community Colleges Committed to Change Consortium).  “Right now, students pay $1,033 just for books for a semester and we’re looking at cutting that in half by using information online and creating our own textbook. We are developing a Table of Contents as we speak. It would then cost students about $10 instead of $250 for a book that is used for one semester. That one book would save California college students $70,000 a year collectively.”

Students would get a better product, too. Barragan said the commonly used textbook on developmental disabilities, to be replaced by the new open source book, was written in 1982.

Saving them money is critical to student retention, educators say. “We know that affordability is key to improving student recruitment and retention rates, “ said Nancy Hoff, Healthcare Redesign Education Delivery (RED) Team Leader at Fresno City College, one of the consortium members. “Creating more affordable materials in economically-challenged areas such as the Central Valley will help ensure that those seeking new careers and skills can achieve them and successfully enter or re-enter the workforce.”

The Convergence is taking place Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7-8, in Visalia. The 20 Million Minds Foundation has pioneered the use of new technology that provides a unique digital experience across all devices with real time editing capabilities allowing instructors to update a book as industry demands evolve. Their experts are providing technical assistance to the consortium and will be at the event guiding the working group discussions.

“This supercharged development session will bring together educators and subject-matter experts to curate and organize strategically selected content,” said Dean Florez, former California Senate Majority Leader and President of 20 Million Minds. “This is the first time that a federal grantee has utilized this creative and unique approach to create accessible, affordable, and high-quality materials that can bring down the cost of education and help students pursue 21st Century careers.”

The keynote speaker will be David Wiley, Associate Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. Dr. Wiley is also Associate Director of the Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling and directs the Open Education Group.

Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) is scheduled to speak.  Stan Carrizosa, Superintendent/President of College of the Sequoias in Visalia, will welcome participants. Frank Gornick, Chancellor of West Hills Community College District, the consortium lead school, will also attend.

Carole Goldsmith, Vice Chancellor, Educational Services and Workforce Development, West Hills CCD, is project leader. She’s excited about the work that’s been done over many months on open source textbook development and sees this week’s Convergence as another ground-breaking step. “This is epic,’ she said. “Our participants share a common cause and vision, to change the way education is developed and delivered using quality open source materials. Our goal is to prepare students for employment in high-skill and high-demand occupations, and we think this event will open the floodgates in a way that will transform and improve access to higher education and career training.”

Outside the Central Valley, the work being done by the consortium is drawing attention from others, she said. “Napa Valley College, Mt. San Antonio College and the California Nurses Education Institute have all signed up to participate this weekend. This process is receiving a lot of interest.”

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