San Diego Community College District: Innovating With Free Custom Online Course Materials

Ranessa Ashton
Member Spotlight

Recognized as a state model in noncredit instruction, San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE) continues its reputation of leadership and innovation by implementing open educational resources (OER) that increase accessibility and textbook affordability to adult students in San Diego.

“It’s about access,” said Matthew Rivaldi, a member of SDCE’s business faculty. “The goal is to offer SDCE students free textbooks or high-quality educational materials using OER.”

OER has been a buzz-term in the California legislature since 2012, when Governor Brown signed two bills that recognized that the cost of textbooks in higher education had grown to a level that was too expensive for most students. Following the initial bills, an OER Council was established to achieve several goals to make OER successful, including creating an approval process and promoting strategies for using OER and exploring methods for reviving out-of-print textbooks in digital OER formats. In 2015, the College Textbook Affordability Act was signed into law, and in 2016 SDCE received the first of three grants to plan and implement OER in existing free career technical education programs.

“The textbook we had been using in the Small Business program was $75 and many students did not make the investment,” explained Rivaldi. He continued,

One main benefit of OER for students is obviously having access to a textbook without the expensive cost. But other benefits include an easy download for many OER, which gives students options to have a partial hard copy or just a section of the book.

Faculty benefit from the flexibility provided by OER in that they have much more direct control of course materials and the academic freedom to tailor content to meet the needs of students. Fair use laws generally restrict faculty from using materials during a class for more than a semester. Using OER allows faculty to use materials in the classroom with less worry about copyright infringement and often longer than one semester.

OER is growing but it is still relatively new for noncredit; finding appropriate, high-quality materials for some discipline topics can be a challenge. “It’s not a fit for every program,” said Rivaldi. “In cases where existing, relevant OER do not exist, developing new materials can be expensive.”

Rivaldi is co-authoring an OER workbook with SDCE faculty Aaron Iffland for the Small Business Planning certificate program. The workbook launched in spring 2018 and is available for anyone to access and reuse from the California Digital Open Source Library.

The San Diego Community College District (SDCCD) Board of Trustees set a goal for SDCCD to ensure that a strategic approach is developed to reduce escalating textbook costs for students. SDCE is leading this charge and will expand OER to additional career technical education classes in spring 2019.


Click here to access OER from SDCE.

Crossing the Chasm: A Participant Approach to Developing a Framework for OER Adoption, presented by Matthew Rivaldi, SDCE faculty, and Stephanie Bulger, Vice Chancellor of Instruction, SCCCD, at EDUCAUSE’s ELI Annual Meeting in January 2018.

Ranessa Ashton is the Public Information Officer for San Diego Continuing Education, San Diego Community College District, in California.

Opinions expressed in Member Spotlight are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.