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SUS faculty, students get access to free digital textbooks and open education resources - Friday, September 2, 2016


The Southern University System (SUS) announces the recent launch of the Southern University Open Online Library for Education (SUOL), the first of several diverse components of Southern University's Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$) initiative, created in partnership with California State University (CSU) and the Multimedia Education Resources for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT).

The SUOL eLearning portal represents the SU System's commitment to promoting student success by providing affordable educational alternatives to traditional textbooks and quality digital learning materials for learning and online teaching. SUOL provides a wealth of open educational resources (OER) for students, faculty, and staff in one convenient location.

The SU System in April, signed a partnership Memorandum of Understanding with CSU and the MERLOT organization, for the design and deployment of Southern University’s Affordable Learning Solutions Initiative, and to create the Southern University Open Online Library for Education.

The partnership will enable SUS faculty to conveniently and successfully choose high quality no-cost and low-cost course materials for designing and delivering online courses and online programs, enable SU students to easily and equitably have access to the high quality no-cost and low-cost course materials for their courses, allow SU administrators to easily and accurately measure the savings for students being produced by the SU AL$ program over time, and measure the benefits for students' learning by having immediate and reliable access to high quality no-cost and low-cost course materials for their courses.

"From the onset, we knew this incredible opportunity to work with a proven and dedicated team of professionals would lend itself to establishing viable and advanced learning and teaching assets for our faculty and students," said SU System President Ray L. Belton.

"The SU Online Library for Education opens a pathway to a virtual universe of resources at a critical time in light of our budget challenges," added Belton.

SUOL will enable SUBR faculty to develop online courses and programs using free and quality Open Education Resources, but also to develop educational multimedia resources and open textbooks to contribute back to the OER and Open Access (OA) global movements.

"I worked tirelessly this summer with Dr. Gerry Hanley and his development team at California State University System to complete a first version of the Southern University Online Library for Education. I am very satisfied with what we have accomplished and envision this project to be very significant to building 21st century eLearning infrastructure for the Southern University System of Louisiana,” said professor Moustapha Diack, lead of SUS AL$ project and chair of the SUBR Doctoral Program in Science/Mathematics Education (SMED), and director, MERLOT Africa Network (MAN).

Diack is cofounder, with CSU's Gerry Hanley, assistant vice chancellor, academic technology services, of MAN, a network of more than 42 African higher education institutions.

A key goal of SUOL is inviting and supporting faculty to adopt free and open etextbooks and create ePortfolios for capturing and sharing their adoption process, supporting a staff development program for IT staff and librarians so they are knowledgeable and skilled at supporting faculty and students adopting and using no-cost and low-cost course materials, developing ePortfolio templates that will be customized and branded for HBCUs using MERLOT’s Content Builder, and supporting the adoption/adaption of the CSU's quality assurance of instruction program for HBCUs that includes the inclusivity of content and pedagogy.

Faculty feedback on the new SUOL innovative resource is encouraging.

"I'm beyond thrilled. I've spent time selecting materials to be included in my courses this semester. I've even had the opportunity to view a criminal justice course and get some new ideas on aesthetic value. This is going to be huge for our faculty and students, alike," said Chenika Jones, associate professor of criminal justice.

Diack expects that as more faculty are introduced to the portal, the opportunity for the SU System to create a virtual infrastructure that will enable us to provide documented college affordability to our student population, with free textbooks and educational resources, will be greatly enhanced.

Professional development and faculty training will be scheduled throughout the fall semester with contribution from CSU.

The University's John B. Cade Library dean and staff, who play a key role in the integration of a virtual infrastructure for the University, is supporting the SUOL initiative by offering four small stipends to faculty who are willing to replace their traditional textbook with an OER/etextbook.

"The goal is to reduce student expenses for books required in the classroom and replace with quality Open Educational Resources. The library is excited and ready to support faculty and students in this important elearning initiative," said Perry.

For questions and further information about the library stipends, contact Dawn Kight at 771-4934 or dawn_kight@subr.edu.