Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$) for HBCUs: Get Started Through the Sharing of Practices, Strategies, Tools, and Resources

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Brief Abstract

HBCU faculty, staff, and administrators will share their practices for supporting faculty changing to no-cost and low-cost digital course materials, including OER, and saving students thousands of dollars. Join us at the pre-conference workshop and get started on your own AL$ programs. It is OPEN to all.


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.
Robbie K. Melton, Ph.D. Is a tenured professor and transitional dean of Graduate School for Tennessee State University. She is also founder and CEO of ‘RobbieTech4Teach’ and formally (20 years) Associate Vice Chancellor of Mobilization Emerging Technology for Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) assigned to develop the system’s Strategic Emerging IOE Technology Planning and provide system-wide Professional Development and Faculty Training related to education technology support and services for teaching, learning, training, and workforce development, product testing, pilots and research. Melton is currently overseeing research regarding the ‘Emerging Technology of The Internet of Everything (IoE) of Smart Connected Devices and Mixed Reality Technologies’ (VR/AR/Holograms/Wearables) for enhancing teaching, improving learning, and increasing workforce productivity; curating IOE Smart Educational Devices, Gadgets, and Tools; and primary investigator for HBCU OER Affordable Learning Solutions Pilots and OER Workforce Skills Commons

Extended Abstract

For the past 6 years, the HBCU Affordable Learning Community has been building the organizational, programmatic, and technical foundation for their Affordable Learning Solutions program for all HBCUs.  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 in partnership with the California State University Long Beach MERLOT-SkillsCommons programs. Along with other vanguard HBCU institutions, we now have a community of over 20 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.

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
  • A collection of free and online teaching-learning resources that have can be used to ‘culturally contextualize’ course curriculum with resources about Africana leaders and histories of HBCUs.  The collection also lets users explore materials that have been authored faculty from HBCUs across a variety of disciplines as well as materials “curated” by faculty from HBCUs.
  • 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

The pre-conference workshop will begin with the leaders of AL$ programs at the HBCUs sharing their strategies, practices, and outcomes as the first step in helping workshop participants develop their strategies and plans for an AL$ program on their campuses.   We will outline a “readiness checklist” for planning your AL$ program and review a planning template for participants to consider how they might customize it for their campuses’ plans.   Participants will share their ideas, concerns, and questions for the HBCU leadership team.