Academics and Workforce Development: Making Education Affordable and Relevant with OER

Concurrent Session 6
Streamed Session HBCU

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Brief Abstract

Learn to use SkillsCommons, the US Department of Labor’s open library of workforce development OER and MERLOT to save time and money by adopting and customizing free quality online curriculum.   Learn how OER can be used in work-based learning to make the learning relevant to improved employability.


Gerard L. Hanley Ph.D. is the Executive Director of MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching, and SkillsCommons ( for the California State University, the Director for the Center for Usability for Design and Accessibility and Professor of Psychology at California State University, Long Beach. At MERLOT and SkillsCommons, he directs the development and sustainability of the international consortium and technology strategy to provide open educational services to improve teaching and learning and continues to development the US Department of Labor's open repository of educational resources for workforce development. Gerry's previous positions include Assistance Vice Chancellor for Academic Technology Services at the CSU Office of the Chancellor, the Director of Faculty Development and Director of Strategy Planning at CSU, Long Beach.

Extended Abstract

The California State University - MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) was awarded a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Labor to create and support the national open repository of open educational resources (OER) for workforce development being produced by over 700 community colleges funding by about $2 billion in grants from the TAACCCT (Trade Adjustment Assistance for Community Colleges and Career Training) program.

SkillsCommons is the open online repository for the TAACCCT OER and it is now open for use at, with over 65,000 downloads of OER per month.   The roadmap for SkillsCommons began with the capabilities to capture and preserve the OER developed by grantees as the funding for the campus programs ends.  The second phase focused on improving the ease of discovering the OER and recognizing the value of the resources for reuse.   The third phase of the project focuses on demonstrating the adoption of TAACCCT OER beyond the people who developed the OER.  Finding relevant OER for one’s course is necessary but not sufficient for the adoption of the OER as course materials.   The CSU-MERLOT has leveraged existing tools, services, programs, and resources to move OER from being admired to being adopted by faculty in the teaching of their courses and in work-based learning. Embedding TAACCCT OER and services into an institution’s initiatives and technology platforms can create critical conditions for adoption.   The CSU-MERLOT program has a proven collaborative shared governance and management process, coupled with a sustainable business model that has evolved over the last 20 years.  SkillsCommons is leveraging the CSU-MERLOT strategy and has been blended into our Affordable Learning Solutions strategy that is being adopted by HBCUs.

The interactive workshop will demonstrate and guide conference participants to use the SkillsCommons and MERLOT  free and open libraries by browsing  and searching through the collection by industry, by type of credential (associates degree, certificate, latticed/stacked credential, etc.), by type of materials (e.g. online course module, fully online course, tutorials, simulations, etc.), by institution and grant project. 

From aviation manufacturing in Seattle to health care in rural Montana, many community colleges have used their TAACCCT grants to develop work-based learning (WBL) opportunities. These WBL activities—where “classroom” learning is paired with activities that occur at the workplace—are designed to train and place thousands of adults into well-paying jobs, while also helping to develop a skilled workforce to ensure American firms’ competitiveness in the global marketplace. The workshop will demonstrate how the OER resources can be used for developing and supporting apprenticeship programs and work-based learning and conference participants will discuss how they can adopt these resources at their own institutions.

Finally, we’ll also demonstrate how SkillsCommons can be used to help industry experts who are frequently hired to teach the career and technical education programs become expert instructors.