Achieving the Dream

An organization that assists community colleges with sustainable institutional transformation to increase student success, especially of low-income students and students of color. One initiative for their network of community colleges focuses on the increased adoption of OER.

Affordable Educational Resources

Also called Affordable Course Content or Affordable Course Materials: course materials that are significantly more affordable for students than traditional commercial textbooks and other course materials. Generally each institution defines what “affordable” means in their context, with costs ranging from $25 to $50 and $40 being the average threshold for the “affordable” designation.

Course Catalog

Also called Course Timetable or Course Schedule Platform: a college or university’s exhaustive listing of courses and programs currently and historically offered, including course titles and descriptions; course catalogs may also contain information about an institution's policies and procedures.

Course Markings

Also called attributes, designations, tags, flags, labels: specific, searchable attributes or designations that are applied to courses, allowing students to quickly identify important information to aid in their decision making and allow them to efficiently plan their academic careers. Course markings may include letters, numbers, graphic symbols, or colors and can designate any information about a course, including service learning status, additional costs, course sequencing requirements, and whether the course fulfills specific general education requirements.

Course Throughput Rate

Measures the effects of a combination of student responses to courses, which include dropping a course, withdrawing from a course, and completing the course with a C or better final grade (Hilton et al. 2016). Researchers use the aggregate course throughput rate to compare student outcomes in course sections using traditional learning materials versus sections using open and affordable materials.


Also called instructors, teachers, faculty: the term used throughout the book to refer to the variety of teaching staff in higher education. This includes anyone that might teach a credit-bearing course, including faculty (both tenure and non-tenure track), adjuncts, graduate students, staff, and librarians.

Enrollment Intensity

Distinguishes between students who enroll as full-time and part-time based on numbers of credits.

Higher Education Opportunity Act

2008 law that reauthorized the Higher Education Act of 1965 and that governs the nation’s college and university policies, including course material costs and price transparency.

In-House Software

Software that has been developed in-house by a particular institution to meet specific, local requirements. Home-grown software is often highly customized and maintained by the institution’s local developers.

Inclusive Access

A marketing term used to describe an agreement between textbook publishers and professors/institutions that allows all students enrolled in a specific course to be automatically charged for course materials through institutional fees. In the United States, organizations are legally required to provide students with options to opt-out of automatic purchasing programs. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against publishers and bookstores over such programs, including a class-action lawsuit filed in April 2020 by FeganScott on behalf of college students against Cengage Learning, McGraw Hill, Pearson Education, Follett Higher Education Group, and Barnes & Noble College Bookseller.

Learning Analytics

The act of gathering and analyzing large amounts of students, data via technology with the goal of improving student success and retention. Learning analytics can be gathered through online learning platforms, learning management systems, or other platforms and contexts. With the growing interest and use of learning analytics in higher education, issues of privacy, consent, and ethics are paramount.


An economic system favoring free market capitalism. Since the 1970s, state governments and higher education institutions have increasingly shifted the burden of tuition costs to students and outsourced institutional services to third party vendors (e.g., technology infrastructure such as learning management systems, dining services, and university bookstores). Critics charge that by  favoring free market economics, neoliberalism impedes diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and limits access to open and affordable education.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Free teaching and learning materials that are licensed to allow for revision and reuse.

Open Source Software

Software that has been shared freely under an open license so that institutions can download, host, and customize the software for their own needs. Adoption of open source software often requires in-house technical expertise.


The use of the term “open” when the materials do not meet all characteristics of open (free + open licensing to allow for unlimited reuse, retention, distribution, and editing). Often used to refer to commercial products.


Similar to openwashing, refers to a practice in which open materials are “wrapped” in non-open products, often referred to by commercial companies as value-added features. The  company refers to the whole product as "open", but the added features restrict users' access to the open content.

Schedule of Classes

Also called Course Schedule or Schedule of Courses: a college or university’s listing of courses to be offered each semester or quarter, which includes details on class time, prerequisites, instructor of record, and other information; it is updated for each academic period.

Self-Service Client

Also called self-service portal: a web-based application that allows users to complete key actions firsthand, such as adding fields, adding tags, or changing the order of fields.

Student Information System (SIS)

Also called Registration System, Course Timetable Software or Course Schedule Platform: a web-based application designed to aggregate key information about students, including demographic information, contact information, registration status, degree progression, grades, and other information. Some SISs assist students with enrollment, financial aid processes, and final payment for courses.

Title IV

Federal program which guides and authorizes financial assistance for students at higher education institutions.


Also called Zed Cred: a degree, certificate, or curriculum path that has completely adopted free or zero-cost course materials so that as students progress through the degree they do not pay for course materials. All courses within the degree program must commit to zero-costs in order for the degree to be designated a Z-Degree.

Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC)

Courses that do not require students to spend money for textbooks. May be achieved through the use of OER, library-licensed content, or other free resources.

Zero Textbook Course (ZTC)

Courses that do not require students to spend money for textbooks; the courses have “zero textbook costs.” May be achieved through the use of OER, library-licensed content, or other free resources.


Grant through Virginia Community College system supporting the creation of Z-Degrees at all 23 VCCS institutions in the system.


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Marking Open and Affordable Courses: Best Practices and Case Studies Copyright © 2020 by Breeman Ainsworth; Nicole Allen; Jessica Dai; Abbey Elder; Nicole Finkbeiner; Amie Freeman; Sarah Hare; Kris Helge; Nicole Helregel; Jeanne Hoover; Jessica Kirschner; Joy Perrin; Jacquelyn Ray; Jennifer Raye; Michelle Reed; John Schoppert; and Liz Thompson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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