The California State University is committed to seeking new ways to provide equity in access to free learning materials and remove financial barriers to student success as part of the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025

Affordable Learning Solutions is a CSU program that enables faculty to choose and provide more affordable, quality educational content for their students through strategies and initiatives that aim to ease the adoption process. 

These include providing access to Open Educational Resources (OER), free online courses, e-textbooks and library resources that, when combined, save students across California $34 million annually.

By reducing CSU student course material expenses, more students acquire the course materials they need to succeed and benefit from their CSU learning experience. Reducing costs for learning materials also allows students to complete their academic requirements sooner. 

“Students are becoming more aware that they need to enroll in 15 units per semester in order to graduate in a timely manner,” says Gerry Hanley, assistant vice chancellor of academic technology services. “Studies show that one of the reasons students take few units per semester is the high cost of textbooks.”

Currently, nearly every CSU campus has an Affordable Learning Solutions coordinator to help drive the initiative for adoption of OER. Campus affiliates work to increase faculty knowledge of the benefits of OER through workshops, events and faculty showcases. 

Through the program, the CSU maintains the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT), an online library of free OER, which provides easy access to peer-reviewed education resources and connects colleagues and experts working in the same disciplines.

One of the ways in which Affordable Learning Solutions encourages faculty to adopt these free and open learning materials is by continuously expanding its databases and modernizing its websites to have a mobilized, responsive design.

MERLOT will be rolling out a new user interface in early 2018 that will make navigating the website and finding materials even easier. MERLOT also added new features and designs to its website earlier this year in an effort to expand access to free learning materials.

MERLOT's new Smart Search function extends access to learning materials well beyond its already extensive collection of resources. Now users can search more than a dozen digital libraries to find OER faster than ever before. Smart Search uses a proprietary MERLOT user profile design to also find the newest and most popular learning materials available on the web.

The CSU’s California Open Online Library for Education (COOL4ED) currently offers free textbook selections for 52 of the most popular general education courses and has also undergone a remodel recently. Each textbook has been peer-reviewed and is accompanied by an accessibility evaluation. Most course showcases offer multiple textbook selections to choose from.

The website also features faculty showcases in which faculty members from throughout the CSU, University of California and California Community colleges have completed detailed open textbook adoption portraits. Faculty members describe the textbook and their course and explain exactly how they incorporated the open materials into their curriculum, as well as how well students responded to the alternative method.

To learn more about how the CSU is aiding in the adoption and incorporation of OER, please visit: https://als.csuprojects.org/.