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Minnesota West receives grant to develop courses with free textbooks, other materials

A state grant will pay instructors at Minnesota West Community & Technical College to research and find no-cost teaching materials for courses that could lead to a Z-degree, saving students money by allowing them to earn degrees without paying for textbooks.

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Minnesota West Community & Technical College has received a $100,000 grant to implement Z-degree offerings at the college.

A Z-degree includes courses that have no costs for required textbooks, lab manuals or other educational resources.

The courses use online textbooks and electronic materials, called open educational resources, which take the place of the traditional printed textbooks. The online material gives students access to recent, up-to-date information.

Minnesota West has campuses in Granite Falls , Canby , Jackson , Pipestone and Worthington . It also has a fire and rescue training facility in Marshall and a health career education center in Luverne .

The grant will allow time for instructors to research open sources to find high-quality teaching materials.

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Minnesota West hopes to provide access to higher education for more students by possibly saving them thousands of dollars in textbooks and lab manuals, according to a release from the college.

“Finding ways to make college more affordable for students is critical,” Kayla Westra, dean of liberal arts and K-12 partnerships at Minnesota West, said in the release.

Westra praised the willingness of faculty members to review and use teaching materials for the Z-degree project. “We are able to undertake this initiative because of our faculty’s dedication to their students, teaching, and learning,” she said.

The $100,000 implementation grant is one in a series of grants approved by the Minnesota Legislature to Minnesota State to explore, implement and pilot a series of Z-degree programs throughout the system.

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