California State University  (CSU) Chancellor's Office

Learning Everywhere: Open Educational Resources in the COVID-19 Era

Ideal for online learning, low- and no-cost learning materials leave room for faculty innovation while increasing student access and cost savings.

Newswise — ​​​​​​In these challenging times, the California State University continues to develop ways to reduce students' expenses while maintaining a high-quality education. The CSU's Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$) is an innovative program that enables faculty to choose and provide more affordable (and even free) quality educational content for students across the 23 CSU campuses.

Resources like MERLOTCOOL4EdSkills Commons and various library resources represent the variety of programs and partnerships that make up this cost-saving institutional initiative. By reducing CSU student course material expenses, more students acquire the educational resources they need to succeed, supporting equitable access—which is central to the CSU's Graduation Initiative 2025. In fact,  AL$ funds more than $450,000 each year in CSU campus grants to reduce course material costs for students.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing college courses into online instruction, open educational resources (OER) are ideal because they are almost all digital and can be embedded into the campus's learning management systems (LMS).

“I'm thankful that I use OER because it was one less thing I needed to worry about to support student success during the transition to remote instruction," says Shelli Wynants, Ed.D., director of online education and training at Cal State Fullerton, who teaches a research methods course.  

“I knew all my students had access to their course content from day one and I didn't have to worry whether they bought the book, or whether they could afford to do so.  At least that part of the transition was seamless because they were already reading their free OER text online," Dr. Wynants adds. 


Equity and Flexibility

“This program is about digital and equitable access for students, and now it's more timely than ever given the landscape that institutions of higher education will be facing in the coming weeks and months," says Leslie Kennedy, Ed.D., interim assistant vice chancellor of Academic Technology Services at the CSU Chancellor's Office. 

A longtime leader in the OER space, the CSU began its MERLOT repository in the 1990s and today it offers more than 90,000 free open educational resources that can be searched by discipline. As faculty continue to evolve their e-learning approaches, free and low-cost digital resources are critical to student success. “Having access to materials that they otherwise probably wouldn't purchase also reduces the student's stress," Kennedy says.

​For faculty, OER and low-cost options offer more freedom and flexibility to design the courses as they want, Kennedy explains. Sometimes an instructor may want only a few chapters from a textbook, and OER allows them to customize and pick chapters from various resources to be more relevant to what the students are learning.  This also helps students who don't want to pay for an entire textbook from which they'll only use a few chapters.

“My favorite thing about OER is what I call 'academic freedom on steroids,'" says Wynants. "I love that I can choose Creative Commons licensed OER that lets me adapt and customize the content to fit the way I teach, and I can add my sense of humor to the reading material with examples and images to make it more personalized for the students."

The AL$ Immediate Access Program is one low-cost option that has been gaining traction recently, says Kennedy. The program, which models a pilot developed by San Diego State University​, allows students immediate access to course materials without having to pay right away. They can then decide to opt in or opt out to purchase the materials by the course add/drop deadline. They have a choice between renting or buying the print book or accessing a significantly discounted digital version of the book, thanks to partnerships between the campus bookstores and the publishers.

Kennedy explains that the program has been popular with many faculty because it allows them to keep using a preferred textbook while also extending a cost-saving option to their students.


Growing Awareness

AL$ data shows an increased growth of adoption and awareness of free and low-cost materials across the CSU. “While we are still on the far side of the adoption curve, we're getting closer to that tipping point, some people would say. This is a worldwide phenomenon happening," Kennedy says, speculating that the whole country going digital overnight could push us over that tipping point.

​​The majority of the CSU campus's Academic Senates have adopted resolutions supporting the AL$ initiative, which has given faculty more confidence in OER and encouraged them to be more willing to switch to new no- and low-cost resources, says Kennedy.

Still, there is more work to be done to raise awareness of these resources. “A lot of times the faculty don't know exactly where to go to find these materials," Kennedy explains, so AL$ coordinators on each campus are working to educate instructors and students about the many available tools through engagement events and other outreach.

AL$ is also launching an awareness campaign—AL$ Lends a Hand (#ALSlendsahand)—to empower students to continue their education through the use of OER to bridge some of the material that may not be covered in their courses due to last-minute instructional shifts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more about the CSU's Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$).

​​​Did You Know?

  • The open educational resources (OER) movement emerged in the mid-1990s, thanks to the creation of the CSU's MERLOT repository. (MERLOT stands for Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching.) Source: Educause 2020 Horizon Report
  • Campus bookstores and libraries play a key role: Faculty are required to notify bookstores regarding planned resources for upcoming courses, and the bookstores share those lists with campus libraries. The library then combs through its own collection for matches and compiles a web page for that course with links to free resources.
  • In 2018-19, 338,012 students were served through campus AL$ program​s. That is 70.3 percent of total CSU student enrollment.
  • Due to the outstanding efforts by AL$ campus coordinators, faculty, staff, and the campus stores, the 2018-2019 AL$ reports show over $50M in student savings.
  • More than 8,000 AL$ grant courses reduced or eliminated course material costs.


Filters close

Showing results

110 of 4570
Released: 15-Jan-2021 2:55 PM EST
COVID-19 deaths really are different. But best practices for ICU care should still apply, studies suggest.
Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

COVID-19 deaths are indeed different from other lung failure deaths, according to two recent studies, with 56% of COVID-19 patients dying primarily from the lung damage caused by the virus, compared with 22% of those whose lungs fail due to other causes. But, the researchers conclude, the kind of care needed to help sustain people through the worst cases of all forms of lung failure is highly similar, and just needs to be fine-tuned.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 2:50 PM EST
45% of adults over 65 lack online medical accounts that could help them sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations
Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

As the vaccination of older adults against COVID-19 begins across the country, new poll data suggests that many of them don’t yet have access to the “patient portal” online systems that could make it much easier for them to schedule a vaccination appointment. In all, 45% of adults aged 65 to 80 had not set up an account with their health provider’s portal system.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 1:30 PM EST
New England Journal of Medicine publishes COVID-19 treatment trial results
University of Texas at San Antonio

A clinical trial involving COVID-19 patients hospitalized at UT Health San Antonio and University Health, among roughly 100 sites globally, found that a combination of the drugs baricitinib and remdesivir reduced time to recovery, according to results published Dec. 11 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 12:40 PM EST
DNA test can quickly identify pneumonia in patients with severe COVID-19, aiding faster treatment
University of Cambridge

Researchers have developed a DNA test to quickly identify secondary infections in COVID-19 patients, who have double the risk of developing pneumonia while on ventilation than non-COVID-19 patients.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 12:30 PM EST
Fight CRC To Present Research Findings on The Impact of COVID-19 on the Colorectal Cancer Community at 2021 GI ASCO
Fight Colorectal Cancer

Fight Colorectal Cancer presents abstract at Gastrointestinal Cancer Symposium highlighting the need to address the barriers and opportunities for care within the colorectal cancer community during the COVID-19 pandemic

Released: 15-Jan-2021 12:25 PM EST
Technion to Award Honorary Doctorate to Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla
American Technion Society

Israel's Technion will award an honorary doctorate to Pfizer CEO and Chairman Dr. Albert Bourla, for leading the development of the novel vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The honorary doctorate will be conferred at the Technion Board of Governors meeting in November 2021.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 11:30 AM EST
UW researchers develop tool to equitably distribute limited vaccines
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and UW Health have developed a tool that incorporates a person’s age and socioeconomic status to prioritize vaccine distribution among people who otherwise share similar risks due to their jobs.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 11:20 AM EST
Will Covid-19 kill the high street once and for all?
University of Sheffield

The shift to home working during Covid-19, or ‘Zoomshock’, threatens the survival of local goods and services provided in city centres and business parks

14-Jan-2021 5:00 PM EST
AACI Partners With Federal Vaccine Panel to Promote Cancer Patient Health
Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI)

AACI was invited last summer to join the Vaccine Consultation Panel (VCP) alongside other leading health and science organizations in the U.S. Through the VCP, AACI has received periodic updates on the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and participated in efforts to educate the cancer center community and the general public on the importance of widespread vaccine uptake.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 8:55 AM EST
The First Dose of the Pfizer Vaccine Gives About 50% COVID Protection, Not 91% Claimed by Those Who Want to Speed Up Immunization

The NEJM paper actually states that the efficacy between the first and second doses was found to be 52 percent when given 21 days apart. After the second dose, the efficacy raises to 95 percent.

Showing results

110 of 4570