ACC Teaches Without Textbooks

Open-source resources help keep education affordable

ACC Teaches Without Textbooks

As enrollment for the spring semester at Austin Community College gets underway, the school is encouraging students to consider signing up for "Z-classes," which help make college more affordable by eliminating the need for costly textbooks. The courses cover a variety of subjects across a range of degree pathways, but they all have one thing in common: None require the purchase of a textbook. School officials estimate that the average textbook for an ACC course costs $100, and they can cost students about $2,000 throughout the completion of a degree.

Instead of a traditional printed textbook, Z-classes rely on "open educational resources" (OER). All of the information contained within OER is licensed under Creative Commons copyright law, which not only allows professors to use the materials free of charge, but also to modify them to better suit a specific class. ACC professor Heather Syrett explained that using OER in her courses has had another benefit: Every student, including those who can't afford a textbook right away, has access to the materials they need on day one of the semester. "It's a big help having the materials available to everyone online, because students can fall behind in the first week or two of a course if they don't have the book," she said.

The program has thus far been a success for ACC. The courses were introduced in spring 2017; by fall 2018, 9,600 students were enrolled in Z-classes, with an estimated savings on textbook costs of $2,120,700. The college is even offering two new "Z-degree" plans for associate's degrees in general studies, which do not require the purchase of a single textbook for the entire course of study.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Austin Community College
$406M ACC Budget Increases Pay Across the Board
$406M ACC Budget Increases Pay Across the Board
College employees receive 3% raise, hourly workers bumped to $15 an hour

Austin Sanders, July 12, 2019

<i>Chronicle</i> Endorsements: Austin ISD and Austin Community College Boards
Chronicle Endorsements: Austin ISD and Austin Community College Boards
School’s in session

The Chronicle Editorial Board, Oct. 19, 2018

More by Austin Sanders
Council Recap: Meet the New Chief, Not the Same as the Old Chief
Council Recap: Meet the New Chief, Not the Same as the Old Chief
Chacon commits to change as academy moves toward reopening

March 26, 2021

Small Change at APD
Small Change at APD
An interim chief and a blueprint for academy reform

March 26, 2021


Austin Community College, ACC, Z-classes, Z-degrees, Creative Commons, Open Educational Resources, OERs, Heather Syrett

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle