Scaling the Impact of the Affordable Learning Solutions with HBCUs
Concurrent Session 2
Reducing the cost of higher education by providing free to low cost course materials has proven to be an important institutional strategy. The session will review strategies adopted by HBCUs to improve implementation of Affordable Learning Solutions programs using customized technologies and professional development programs.
For the past 5 years, the HBCU Affordable Learning Community has been building the organizational, programmatic, and technical foundation for their Affordable Learning Solutions program for all HBCUs. Nine (9) HBCUs have been institutionalizing the Affordable Learning Solutions strategies, modelled after the programs develop by the California State University, MERLOT, and Skills Commons which are internationally recognized for providing access to free and open educational resources to millions of faculty, staff, students, and the broader education and workforce communities. Another eight (8) have initiated some elements of an AL$ project on their campus. The leaders of HBCU institutions such as Tennessee State University, Southern University, Bethune Cookman University and others within the HBCU AL$ community, in partnership with MERLOT-SkillsCommons have designed an open portal that provides easy access to:
- the largest aggregate collection of free and open e-textbooks, open courseware, open access journals, open learning objects, and more
- over 50 general education course with multiple free and open e-textbooks aligned with the course curriculum
- free and open collections of virtual labs in STEM and workforce development curriculum
- over 100 free and open teaching ePortfolios that showcase faculty’s adoption of OER across a broad range of disciplines
- a free and open library of planning tools, guidelines, and professional development resources to support HBCUs developing and implementing their own AL$ programs
- free and open methods for sharing their use, reuse, revision, remixing, redistribution, and retention of OER that they have adopted and authored
Tennessee State University (TSU) has successfully institutionalized the Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$) strategy and has been recognized as outstanding and exemplary by Berkeley project. TSU have been successfully incubating AL$ projects at various HBCUs by leveraging the Hewlett grants to the California State University – MERLOT. Along with other vanguard HBCU institutions, we now have a community of nine (9) HBCUs that have implemented AL$ and has successfully enabled HBCU faculty to redesign their courses and adopt OER to reduce if not eliminate the cost of course materials for their students. MERLOT-SkillsCommons closely collaborated with the HBCU leadership group to design and maintain the HBCU AL$ Community Portal that showcases the individually customized, institutional AL$ portals, and all the open educational services that all HBCUs can use.
Although a foundation of expertise and resources are available to the other HBCUs, the already challenging higher ed economic environment compounded with the COVID-19 pandemic placed almost unsurmountable barriers for other HBUCs to adopt and institutionalize AL$ on their own. Yet strategies for reducing the cost of education through the adoption of OER (AL$) can be a critical strategy to help HBCUs survive the current economic crisis. Based on the five (5) years of participating and facilitating the HBCU AL$ Summits and programs with MERLOT, we have recognized many significant barriers for HBCUs being able to translate their good intentions into institutionalized practices.
- HBCU administrators, faculty, librarians, academic technology directors, faculty development directors, and mid-level managers have extraordinary responsibilities on their campuses which can create overwhelming circumstances. Most HBCUs have enrollments under 5,000 students, which creates a very challenging business environment for HBCUs to survive. A small number of employees have to perform a complex array of jobs and consequently, innovations and institutional changes are difficult to develop and implement.
- Moving all courses online due to the pandemic has created an overwhelming demand for quality online curriculum. However, the culturally contextualized online curriculum for the African American community of learners and faculty, which is a critical component of HBCUs institutional identify, is very difficult to discover and adopt. The OER collections are still sparsely populated with culturally contextualized curriculum for the African American communities. Consequently, HBCUs could lose their distinct educational identity.
The presentation will review the HBCU AL$ Communities’ strategy for scaling AL$ program across more HBCUs and strengthening the capacities of existing members of the HBCU AL$ community. The HBCU AL$ strategy is focusing on supporting departments developing their capacities for adopting OER (vs. just individuals), facilitating campus leadership in advocating for OER adoptions, and expanding the collection of OER for the African American communities.