8 Considerations and Potential Challenges

Ann Ludbrook and Ryerson University

Maintaining a Zero Textbook Cost Degree

You may need to have a review process in place to maintain your Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) Degree year-to-year. You may want to set up a process on how instructors can add new content (using a syllabus checking service or E-Reserve) to make sure the material stays zero-cost. On boarding sessions with instructors at the beginning of a program and at the beginning of each term can be an important way to  maintain a program. If the expectation is that the curriculum remain static setting up a syllabus or readings list deposit system for the zero-cost courses might be helpful so you can easily pass on materials to a new instructor. Just like regular courses, ZTC programs can set up a course refreshment schedule so the course materials get updated and reviewed every few years if the course has a set curriculum, as Mesa Community College plans to do in a revision cycle of every 18-24 months.[1] Another exciting possibility in the course refreshment cycle is to apply open pedagogy practises that involve students in the updating and refreshment of a ZTC course, as Rajiv Jhanghiani recommends.[2]

Communication with Part-time or Adjunct Instructors

Sometimes part-time and adjunct instructors are hired only a week or two before a course starts and they may be new to the institution or your to your ZTC Degree program. They may be teaching at multiple institutions including ones where they may be using a commercial textbook. Creating some kind of on boarding program for new instructors coming into a program to let them know of zero-cost expectations is key to the success and maintenance of the ZTC program. As well a ready to go zero-cost reading list needs to be available to share with them.

Academic Freedom and Collective Agreements

At some institutions your full-time instructors may be covered under a collective agreement that protects academic freedom when it come to choosing what is taught in class, within certain parameters. If you are at such an institution then you may need to do prior advocacy work to build agreement and buy-in of enough faculty in a program to establish your ZTC Degree. OER initiatives for example work best because faculty care for their students and want them to succeed not because of mandates. Nicole Allen, SPARC notes  “It’s really important to recognize that mandates are not the pathway to OER.”[3] Remember in a ZTC Degree you just need to find a degree pathway through a program that is zero-cost, you don’t have to transition every course or course section to be zero-cost course in the degree, although you will need to find a course section pathway in all of your required courses.

As well, full-time instructors may also be covered under a collective agreement that protects the governance of their own intellectual property. Some instructors are happy to licence materials under Creative Commons licences but such licensing can’t be mandated by the institution.







  1. Mesa Community College. (n.d.). Z Degree. Retrieved from https://ctl.mesacc.edu/teaching/z-degree/
  2. Mays, E. (2018, 15 February). Supercharged OER at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Pressbooks News. Retrieved from https://pressbooks.com/2019/02/15/supercharged-oer-at-kwantlen-polytechnic-university/
  3. McKenzie, L. (2018, 27 February). Hawaii Legislators Abandon Plan for Faculty Mandate on OER. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/02/27/oer-mandate-overturned-hawaii-amid-concern-about-infringement-academic-freedom


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Considerations and Potential Challenges Copyright © by Ann Ludbrook and Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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