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A Winning Combination: Education OER Degree & Psychology ZTC Degree

west hills college

West Hills College Lemoore (WHCL) was awarded an OER Degree grant by Achieving the Dream in 2016 to develop an Associate of Arts Transfer (AA-T) degree in Elementary Teacher Education. One year into the ATD grant, WHCL was awarded a a California Chancellor’s Office Zero-Textbook-Cost (ZTC) Degree grant which it has used to develop an Associate of Arts Transfer (AA-T) degree in psychology and deployed in spring 2018. The Elementary Teacher Education OER degree will be fully deployed in fall 2018. In addition, WHCL is a Technical Assistance Provider for the California Zero-Textbook-Cost Degree program helping other community colleges in the state to develop ZTC degrees.

Author: Ron Oxford, Librarian, and Kelsey Smith, Open Education Adjunct Librarian, West Hills College Lemoore

Published on April 25, 2018

West Hills College Lemoore OER Infographic


  • Social justice
  • Academic freedom and revitalization of teaching and learning
  • Cost-savings, day one access, student equity

WHCL serves a very diverse population of students and has institutional goals of providing equal access to all students despite socioeconomicbackground, location, disability, and/or ethnic background. The institution has a wide-ranging approach to improving success, increasing access, and credential attainment of under-served, low-income populations.

The college’s dedication to increasing access to underserved and low-income students means that the use of open educational resources is key to student success. Providing equal access to all college services includes course content and instructional materials; when textbook costs are no longer a burden, many barriers to access are dissolved.

With such a socially, economically, and ethnically diverse student community at WHCL, the movement towards use of open educational resources came naturally as a way to increase student success and equity. Not only are OERs saving students money, they provide them with day-one access to course instructional materials and allow them to retain these resources long after their courses end. Students no longer have to forgo buying a textbook because of cost or in math and science where textbooks and access codes are extremely expensive.


  • Subject areas with no or limited OER developed
  • Lack of ancillary materials especially in math
  • Sustainability post-grant

Some challenges that faculty and librarians at WHCL encountered while developing an OER Degree and a Zero-Textbook-Cost degree were the lack of existing open resources in certain subject areas, and the lack of quality ancillary materials and homework systems in math and the sciences. Finding OER for English courses is also a challenge.  The library provided a libguide to help faculty find and evaluate OER for their courses.

In the areas with sparse open resources, faculty found themselves compiling Web resources instead of adopting one open textbook like so many of the other courses were able to do. With the curation of various resources came the challenge of finding a way to format and print these resources for students and the library course reserves.

Sustainability is also a concern. WHCL has support from faculty, administration, and students but will need additional funding after the grants finish to continue to grow and develop more OER degree pathways. As more evidence of impact is shown, alignment with student equity programs is a natural fit.


Faculty Engagement

  • Single stipend structure for all OER grants
  • Leverage the California Online Education Initiative (OEI) course rubric as a standard
  • OER boot camp for faculty during the summer

Faculty have discovered that adopting OER is an opportunity to redesign teaching and learning in their courses and allows them more academic freedom than they had previously with expensive publisher textbooks and ancillary materials.  

Using the California OEI rubric for exemplary online courses as the standard for course development has provided faculty with a consistent set of steps to follow for creating high quality, interactive, and accessible OER courses. WHCL also uses the rubric to set the stipend structure for faculty course developers. Each summer, WHCL offers a three-day innovation OER boot camp that guides faculty new to OER through building their own OER course in Canvas that they will use to teach in the fall semester.

Administration and other stakeholders involvement

  • OER Committee (co-chairs–one to Academic Senate and one to Educational Services)
  • Integrated OER into Strategic Plan & Board Policy
  • Marketing, bookstore, DSPS, Library, Title V

The OER task force led by the library has been transformed into an OER committee that is a permanent part of college governance. This cross-functional group is co-chaired by the vice-president of instruction and a faculty member. The vice-president reports to the Integrated Student Success Committee and the faculty member reports to the Academic Senate which has been successful in ensuring that different parts of campus stay informed about the OER committee’s work.

WHCL has a strategic plan and a board policy that address OER. With the full support of the board and their executive administration to move forward, the strategic plan calls for OER adoption in all their general education courses by 2020. Marketing, the bookstore, disability programs, and a Title V grant also fully support the increased use of OER.

Student Awareness

  • Student representative on OER Committee
  • OER advisement through counselors and campus media
  • OER designation in course catalog

Student awareness of OER degrees is one of the most important success factors. Early in the process, the college decided to wait to announce to students until after the degree was available. Once courses using OER were ready to launch, advertising the two degree programs to students began.


  • Estimated $283,800 savings in Spring 2018
  • $218,200 saved in Fall 2017
  • Teaching & learning revitalized
  • AA-T Psychology OER degree

In Fall 2017, WHCL had 75 sections using OER which grew to 96 sections in Spring 2018. This saved approximately 3,093 students $283,800 and more are under development for fall.

Teaching and learning, engagement and revitalization is one of the biggest results for instructors since they now teach content not chapters. OER also aligns with information competency and information literacy outcomes as instructors are able to contextualize the information and make it relevant to what the students are learning. Instructors model the ethical usage of information with licensing and attribution and show students how to follow ethical and legal guidelines when using and gathering resources. Students see that information creation is a process and that scholarship is a dialogue.

The foundational work for creating one zero-cost degree has greatly improved the rate at which the college will be able to complete degrees in other areas; by focusing on OER for general education courses, new zero-cost degrees will be almost complete before they even begin. WHCL has an institutional goal of providing students with 100% of their general education transfer requirements as OER courses by 2020.

College Profile

West Hills College Lemoore is a community college located in the heart of California’s Central Valley in a small, rural town. It serves a very diverse population of students, and has been designated a Hispanic-serving institution with about 59% of the 6,386 students enrolled during the 2016-2017 academic year identifying as Hispanic. WHCL has 43 full-time faculty and 112 adjunct faculty.