Affordable, Accessible: SJCC’s eZ Degree Project and OER Initiative

In January, San José City College (SJCC) was the recipient of a $150,000 Zero-Textbook-Cost Degree Implementation Grant. The College was one of five community colleges to receive a “Z degree” implementation grant and one of two to receive the maximum award. The Z-Degree Grants are part of a statewide initiative to reduce educational costs through the use of open-education resources (OER). Funds were set aside last year by Governor Jerry Brown, with $5 million allocated for grants funding zero-textbook-cost degrees at California community colleges.

A Variation on a Theme

In many ways, SJCC’s Z degree is unique among the other implementation grant recipients, as SJCC will be developing a fully online zero-textbook transfer degree, which will take the form of a Liberal Arts Associate Degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences. The project was proposed by and will be developed and managed by the Division of Library, Learning Resources & Distance Education. The Division has already rebranded the degree the “eZ degree,” in light of its electronic modality.

OER LogoDevelopment of the eZ degree begins in March, and the College hopes to roll out the program for SJCC students in 2018. The eZ degree will make it possible for SJCC to expand its reach to students across the state and, potentially, to students across the nation and the world. The eZ degree’s adoption of OER is expected to cut the cost of the Associates Degree in half and to make curricula more accessible to students. OER textbooks are provided in a variety of e-reader formats, making it possible for students to read their textbooks on smartphones, e-readers, tablets, laptops and desktop computers.

While the eZ degree will be designed for fully online students and will prioritize enrollment slots for its online cohorts, eZ courses will be available to traditional, on-campus students, as well.

The OER Initiative

OpenStax PsycholoyIn many respects the eZ degree is an outgrowth of SJCC’s OER Initiative, which was established in September 2016 by the Division of Library, Learning Resources & Distance Education. Like the eZ degree, the principle purpose of the Initiative is to assist in reducing educational costs while promoting quality instructional content that is free and appropriately licensed for educational use.

The OER Initiative supports the SJCC community by providing OER textbook research assistance, a textbook adoption database, and support for students enrolled in courses (face-to-face, hybrid, or online) that utilize OER in lieu of for-pay, commercial textbooks.

In fact, SJCC’s first official “Z course” (a face-to-face course with a zero-cost OER) rolled out at Milpitas in mid-February. Instructor Lorraine Burnham reviewed and adopted the OpenStax OER textbook, Psychology, for her PSYCH 010: General Psychology course. Burnham, who has worked with online publisher materials in the past, is interested in the OER movement and keen to see how her students utilize electronic OER in her courses.

If you are a faculty, student or staff member who is interested in OER, ample resources are available to you on the Library’s website. For additional information, contact Susan Hines (; Susan is the Division Dean and Director of both the eZ Degree and OER Initiative projects.

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