Open Education Week Lunch-Time Talks at San José City College

San José City College (SJCC) will join in the International Open Education Week festivities. SJCC faculty, staff, and students are invited to join us for presentations in the Professional Development Center (General Education Building GE-118) for the following:

Tuesday, March 28, 12-1 pm
Teaching with An OER Textbook
This is a panel discussion with Veronica Harris, Counselor & Instructor, Guidance and Lorraine Burnham-Levy, Instructor, Psychology

Wednesday, March 29, 12-1 pm
What’s the eZ Degree? How Does it Work? Who Does it Impact?
This is a presentation by Susan Hines, Dean, Library, Learning Resources & Distance Education

Thursday, March 30, 12-1 pm
Community of Practice for OER Degrees
This is a presentation by Una Daly, Director, Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER)

To register for one or all of the talks, visit the Distance Education Workshops form and scroll down to the Additional Workshops & Presentations section. For more information about OER week at SJCC, contact Susan Hines (

OER Adoption: Instructor Experiences

College SuccessThis semester two San José City College instructors, Veronica Harris and Lorraine Levy, ventured into some new territory. Instead of using traditional, printed, for-purchase textbooks in their classrooms, they opted for electronic open-education resources (OER). Harris, who teaches guidance courses and is a counselor for Puente and Athletics, is using an Open UMN textbook called College Success, and Levy, who teaches psychology courses, is using an OpenStax textbook called Psychology. Neither faculty member had used an OER textbook in her teaching before nor any textbook in an electronic format. Thus far, both instructors are well satisfied and find the students’ impressions to be favorable.

Textbook Value

According to Harris, the discovery of College Success was a twofer: “I teach a College Study Techniques guidance class in the fall semester and a Career and Life Planning guidance class in the spring. The main reason I am using the OER textbook is because my students had to purchase two textbooks for each of these courses. [The textbook] covers entering college and study techniques that I teach in the fall guidance course.  It also covers career and life planning, so I can use this same textbook in the spring.  This means my students do not have to purchase a book for either semester.” In each of Harris’s courses, the approximate cost of the textbook was $100.

OpenStax PsychologyCosts were a bit steeper for students in Levy’s section of Introduction to Psychology. The textbook she used prior to adopting an OER was $290. When asked about the quality of the OER textbook, Levy responded “I’m happy with the quality. It’s succinct. It has all the main points I cover in my normal lectures. It’s compact enough that I am free to elaborate with my own materials, including extension or enrichment activities.” She is also happy with the textbook’s CC BY licensing, which means that she’s free to add to and edit textbook chapters and sections. “I’m getting my PhD in Jungian psychology, and he’s not fully represented. [This] gives me the opportunity to add my own content.”

Student Response

Resoundingly, students are in favor of OER textbooks because they are free, but there are other benefits, as well. For example, OER puts an end to availability gaps, so a late book order or bookstore hiccup doesn’t derail any ambitious plans for the first few weeks of class. OER textbooks are helpful to students and instructors alike who take and teach newly added course sections or “late start” courses. “As I was a last-minute hire,” says Levy, who works as an adjunct, “I was relieved the [text]book was already chosen since I was jumping into the class the weekend before the class started.” Harris notes that students don’t miss hauling physical textbooks to class. They like that their books are always already online or readily available on their smartphones or tablets or laptops. Well aware that some students are apprehensive about computers, Harris schedules her classes in a lab, so she can assist with the technologies and be certain that students have access to the OER textbook during class.

When asked if students had any technical problems with their OER textbook, both instructors responded in the “so far, so good” vein. “I’m not aware of any technical problems. Everyone,” Levy observed, “was able to download the textbook, and everyone has a way to read the electronic text. Students bring their electronic devices each week to class.” Levy, who teaches at the Milpitas Extension, makes use of overhead projection devices when she wants to focus on or discuss a passage or section of text. “Instead of referring to page numbers, I refer to chapter titles and section numbers.” Levy also finds that an electronic textbook supports her teaching style. Interspersed with lectures, her students work on “assignments in Canvas,” making it possible for them to “work between their online textbooks and their online assignments.”

Technological Advantages

The active learning taking place in Harris and Levy’s classrooms isn’t unique, but it does demonstrate ways in which textbooks in electronic formats might be better integrated into instruction, whether or not students are huddled together in real-time, working collaboratively in a classroom or lab or working independently and asynchronously on a computer at home or in an office break-room. Harris is an admitted fan of electronic search, which makes it possible to leverage texts in a variety of ways. “I like using the search feature to look up a passage in the book,” Harris explains. “With a printed book you have to flip through pages to find what you are look for.”

Kindle on AndroidTo be sure, electronic texts make research faster. Key words or phrases can be located in seconds, then cut and pasted into student notes, study guides, or assignments. Electronic texts can foster readings that are both broad and in-depth. Because most online texts are by their very nature intratextual, students who read on a Kindle or iPad can look up the definitions of words or access endnotes on the fly. These platforms also allow for hypertextual connections with other online texts as well as networked note-taking, so students can share the equivalent of their highlighted passages and margin notes with other readers.

Voice activation inquiry systems are growing increasingly more common, as well, making reading and note-taking even more interactive. Siri, Cortana, and Alexa are embedded into a wide range of devices these days and can bring information forward as quickly as a student might say, “Alexa, Wikipedia, Collective Unconscious.” These same systems provide text-reading capabilities as well, so learners have another way to access information – through the ears instead of the eyes.

Improving Resources

OER textbooks have come a long way in just a few short years, and seem poised to follow in the footsteps of the open-source software movement – a movement in which free applications are improved upon through common user contributions then re-released to the public. While most OER textbooks are fairly basic, some feature useful ancillary materials. According to Levy, Psychology includes “video links embedded in the chapters…and useful review sheets after each section.” Psychology, like so many OpenStax textbooks, also features instructor and student resources, including syllabi, test banks and “getting started” guides.

The OER Initiative at San José City College is also keen to enhance the OER experience. Located in the Division of Library, Learning Resources & Distance Education, the Initiative provides a variety of resources to help faculty locate, adopt, and utilize quality resources. Librarians are available to assist with OER textbook alternative searches and to explain copyright and licensing. The Initiative also provides students support by through OER handouts and tutorials and by making print copies of OER textbooks available for in-house use in the Library, the Learning Resource Center, and at the Milpitas Extension. For more information, visit:

Open Education Week

March 27-31, 2017 is Open Education Week, a celebration of the global Open Education Movement. To find out more about what’s happening, visit:

Free Access to Textbooks for Milpitas Students

Milpitas CollectionThis spring the Milpitas Extension opened officially for business. While the Extension does not (yet) have a Library, it is supported by the San José City College Library through a textbook lending program. One of the biggest hurdles for students to attend college is the high cost of textbooks, and one of the goals for the Milpitas Extension is to provide textbook use free of charge.

To date, the Library has obtained and processed 338 textbooks, which are checked out to Milpitas students for the entire semester. Currently, the Library works with the SJCC Bookstore to acquire the texts. Milpitas course instructors are asked in advance for titles of the textbooks they plan to use. Once the book orders are delivered to the Bookstore, the Library insures that the textbooks are delivered to students.

At the end of the semester, students return their textbooks on the last day of class. The Library then inventories the textbooks and returns them to special collection shelving until the courses in which they are assigned are taught once again.

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

Library LightsThe Library is brighter and greener thanks to the Facilities and Maintenance Department at San José City College. Earlier this year, work crews replaced most of the old-style bulbs with new LED lights.

If you visited the Library at night prior to February, you might have noticed there were areas which were looking a bit dim. In the past several weeks, many of the Library’s old bulbs have been replaced.

Not only are the new bulbs providing a more conducive environment for students to read and study, but they are much more energy efficient and should last for many more years to come.

Umoja Students Develop Library Display

Black History DisplayIn early February, Umoja students worked with the library staff to develop a display for Black History Month.

Students in Tina Chen’s English 1A class selected “African American Influence on American Culture” as the display theme, and each student selected a book reflecting his or her interests.

Topic favorites ranged from rap music to professional sports to scientific discovery. Some of the books recommended include:

Student, faculty, and staff are invited to celebrate Black History Month with a good book. You may view a complete list of the students’ selections online.

Stop by the library and check out one (or as many) that interest you!

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.