Increasing Equitable Access and Success for All Students with Open Educational Resources!

Concurrent Session 5
Streamed Session Blended HBCU Equity and Inclusion MERLOT

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Brief Abstract

Learn how your institution can lower the cost of textbooks and improve learning opportunities for your students today by leveraging free and open educational services and resources in academic disciplines, career and technical educations.    


Leslie Kennedy, Ed.D., Director, Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$) at the CSU Office of the Chancellor provides strategic planning and project and vendor management in support of AL$ initiatives and leads a number of campus and system-wide collaborations. Previously, Leslie served as the director of instructional technology support services at CSULB, engagement and user community relations manager for WebCT, and was tenured faculty at Fullerton College. She has an MA in Linguistics and a second Masters in Online Learning and Teaching. Her doctorate is in educational leadership in higher education with a focus on supporting mainstream faculty adoption of instructional technologies. Her work and education background includes a unique combination of relevant vendor experience, project management of diverse academic technology projects and teams, and first-hand experience as a faculty member which enables her to provide vision and guidance to AL$.
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 legislature has been funding no and low cost course materials initiatives because when the total cost of CA higher education is more affordable, students graduate in less time with less debt to become productive and informed state and national citizens.   

In the four years since CA legislation and funding was enacted, the California State University, Office of the Chancellor has received grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in order to release portions of the $5M awarded by the legislature.  A successful deliverable has been the creation of the California Open Online Library ( which is a curated collection of open and free etextbooks for 50 general education courses resulting in over 150 open etextbooks and 450 faculty reviews.  The etextbook reviews are posted to the  website, and they are available for any instructor who is considering adopting affordable, digital course materials for their students.  The COOL4Ed website is a layer of webtechology that leverages the MERLOT (www.merlot) library of OER and free educational materials as well as the advanced capabilities of its open educational services. continues to expand significantly with titles being adopted with the community and CA state university system.  With recent additions to the COOL4Ed services, users have free access to (1) the collection of faculty showcases sharing their open textbook adoption experiences which could possibly assist instructors with  their decisions to adopt an open or free etextbook in the future and (2) the collection of etextbook reviews by faculty from California’s higher education segments, (3) the collection of accessibility evaluations of the free and open etextbooks that enables faculty and students to decide if the resource is accessible for their learning, (4) collections of virtual labs in a variety of STEM areas that are free or low cost, and (5) collections of open courseware for career and technical education degrees, credentials, and certificates. 

 This session will provide a brief background on the initiative and will share examples of the faculty adoption experiences in addition to sharing multiple resources that support faculty in the search for quality open and free etextbooks.  The session will also have participants use the website to explore the course catalog of free and open etextbooks, review and discuss the faculty reviews of the etextbooks as well as the interpretation of the accessibility evaluations.   Finally, we will discuss how to use these tools and resources for their own textbook affordability initiative, which could be modeled after the CSU’s Affordable Learning Solutions initiative ( and ask participates to draft a plan for the first year of their program and share with the rest of the audience.