Leveraging Guided Pathways for OER Program Design

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

Increasingly colleges and universities are discovering the benefits of open educational resources (OER). Learn how one institution has implemented and managed a zero-textbook-cost (ZTC) degree program by aligning their guided pathways program maps to their ZTC design initiative for maximum impact. Presenters will share strategies, tools, and success data. 


Laura Ballard currently serves as the eLearning Director at Mesa Community College (MCC) and brings 20 years of Educational Technology and Online Learning experiences to this role. Mrs. Ballard provides leadership and direction to all things online at MCC to include developing partnerships/relationships with transfer institutions, identifying and purchasing online technology tools for eLearning students & staff, ensuring that MCC online degree programs remain accredited and compliant, and conducting eLearning program assessment. Additionally, she provides leadership and advocacy for a zero-textbook-cost online initiative known as MCC's Z Degree. This initiative funds faculty to design and develop zero-textbook-cost courses via an Expert Model process through the college's Center for Teaching & Learning. This Z Degree initiative has saved students a half-million dollars in just three semesters and has shown 6% higher student success in online Z Courses compared to all other online courses at MCC. During her 20-year tenure in the Maricopa Community Colleges, Laura has served in several faculty support roles and teaches English Composition online. She is an ASU graduate with a Master's in Learning & Instructional Technology as well as a graduate from Washington State University with a Bachelor's in English/Language Arts & Secondary Education. In her spare time, she loves to workout, bake and watch her daughters play basketball.
Stephanie is an experienced eLearning innovator with more than 18 years of experience in higher education. She holds graduate degrees in curriculum and instruction and adult education and training. She has taught online at the community college and university levels in the areas of instructional design, instructional technology, and college success strategies. For more than 15 years she has worked in an area of eLearning in higher education. She is also the co-author of the textbook Life During College: The Online Learner's Guide to Success. Stephanie lives in Arizona with her family.

Extended Abstract

 A recent report released by the Center for Community College Student Engagement shows that while early adopters of the Guided Pathways model have made great strides there is still much progress to be made across the institution. One reason is because the guided pathways model requires institution wide change at every level and the model and most of the work for institutions is fairly new. While there is progress to be made still, much has been accomplished. More than 300 colleges have begun implementing the four pillars of guided pathways and anecdotal data shows that students appreciate and benefit from a full program academic plan. Meanwhile the open educational resources (OER) movement continues to grow at a steady pace and the pandemic showed us that even more students could benefit from free and open course materials available on the first day of classes. Yet institutions still struggle for support and wonder if their OER initiative will be lasting and can take hold.

The presenters saw the similarities in the transformational natures of the guided pathways model and the OER movement when their institution was nearly complete with pillar one: mapping pathways to student end goals. Guided pathways requires faculty and staff to be deeply involved in the curriculum and success of students in a way that had never before happened. The vision that the presenters had for their zero-textbook cost degree online program required faculty and staff to take ownership of their course curriculum and envision OER, representation, equity, and online course facilitation in ways that they had not previously done before. The answer was to leverage the guided pathways model and engage faculty in OER program design, not course design.

Participants in the session will work in small groups to brainstorm hurdles they currently face and then determine ways to overcome them. They will discuss popular OER funding structures, sources of OER data that can be used later in the program, and the process for implementing the program. During the session, the presenters will walk the participants through specific examples of implementations, courses, processes, and OER data. 

Participants will leave the session with a plan that can be replicated at their institution and a toolbox of OER resources.


Center for Community College Student Engagement. (2020). Building momentum: Using guided pathways to redesign the student experience. Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin, College of Education, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, Program in Higher Education Leadership.