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SU System signs MOU with Cal State to support innovative learning solutions project


The Southern University System (SUS), April 19, 2016, signed a partnership Memorandum of Understanding with California State University (CSU) and the Multimedia Education Resources for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) organization for the design and deployment of Southern University's Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$) Initiative, and to create the Southern University Open Online Library for Education (SUOL4Ed).

The CSU-MERLOT program has been successful in saving students millions of dollars in California during the six years of its AL$ program, and higher education systems in New York, Georgia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma have also partnered with CSU-MERLOT to design and deploy their own customized AL$ programs.

Southern University will leverage CSU-MERLOT's AL$ capabilities to create their own institution-specific showcases and website that they can build up over time.

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.

"The faculty leadership at SUBR fully embraces the Affordable Learning Solutions Initiative. The availability of no cost and low cost instructional materials increases student access, providing Southern University with an opportunity to expand the reach and scope of its historic mission. In partnership with MERLOT, we are poised to set the pace among HBCUs in authoring and implementing Open Education materials," said Thomas Miller, associate professor of foreign languages and president of the SUBR Faculty Senate.

The project will seek funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for SUS faculty professional development and expanding the model to serve HBCUs in the U.S.

"Twenty-first century high education institutions will have to rely not only on adaptable physical infrastructure and qualified human resources, but also on a reliable and scalable virtual infrastructure," said professor Moustapha Diack, lead of SUS AL$ project and director 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.

Diack added, "This partnership with California State University and the MERLOT organization will enable our System and higher education in Louisiana to create a virtual infrastructure that will enable us to provide documented college affordability to our student population, with free textbooks and educational resources, that can result to capacity enrollment and better retention strategies."

This is critical, he emphasized, since Southern needs to forcefully comply with the recently signed federal Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA).

"I have been preaching the Open Education Resources gospel for more than 17 years now globally with my friend and collaborator Gerry Hanley. So Southern has played a significant role in this field of open education for many years now. This project will not only enhance our infrastructure, but it will help engage other HBCUs and international partners in Africa," said Diack.

The SU-CSU partnership was finalized after more than a year of negotiations between the organizations. During this period, a delegation from the CSU-MERLOT made several visits to SU to meet with faculty and the SUS administration.

"The Affordable Learning Solutions initiative in the California State University has and will continue to save our students millions of dollars every year by supporting faculty choosing and students using high quality, no-cost and low-cost course materials," said Hanley.

"The collaborative leadership of Southern University System in this initiative will be essential for all of higher education to learn how to meet the educational needs of our diverse student populations and achieve inclusive excellence within our institutions," he added.

Southern University's Affordable Learning Solutions initiative has several diverse components that reach across the University to enhance the teaching and learning environment including developing a strategic plan for an AL$ initiative, creating the Southern University's Open Online Library for Education (SUOL4Ed), 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 HBCU's using MERLOT's Content Builder, and supporting the adoption/adaption of the CSU's quality assurance of instruction program for HBCU's that includes the inclusivity of content and pedagogy. 

"The Library is excited to participate in the SU Affordable Learning Solutions Initiative. Providing an open online library where students have access to high quality digital textbooks along with other educational learning resources is definitely a move in the right direction. Students are always coming to the library to find an alternative or older edition to their class textbook because they can't afford the latest edition. This virtual library will help even the playing field for students, and librarians are ready to support faculty and students in locating, advocating and using these resources, combined with all of the other digital content already provided by the University Library," said Dawn Ventress Kight, assistant University librarian for technology and information services, SU John B. Cade Library.

SUOL4ED will enable SUBR faculty to develop online courses and programs using free and quality Open Education Resources (OER), but also to develop educational multimedia resources and open textbooks to contribute back to the OER and Open Access (OA) global movements.

"It is a privilege for me to lead this project for our System and state," Diack exclaimed.



 The Southern University System, April 19, 2016, signed a partnership MOU with California State University and the Multimedia Education Resources for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) organization to launch SU Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$) and a SU Online Library for Education. Some of the SU team members working to develop and deploy the initiative are pictured (front center) Charlotte Henderson, assistant University librarian for collections and resource development, J.B. Cade Library; (second row, left-right) Francesca Mellion Williams, academic technology/innovation coordinator, Division of Information Technology (DoIT); Mohammad Abdus Salam, professor and graduate coordinator, Department of Computer Science; (third row, left-right) Chrisena R. Brown, LMS Administrator, DoIT; ReShonda Corley, research assistant, SUBR Doctoral Program in Science/Mathematics Education (SMED); Emma Bradford Perry, dean of libraries, J.B. Cade Library; and (back row, left-right) Dawn Kight, assistant University librarian for technology and information services, J.B. Cade Library; Moustapha Diack , lead of SUS AL$ project, director of the SUBR SMED program, and the Merlot Africa Network.


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Moustapha Diack, professor
Director, Doctoral Program in Science/Mathematics Education (SMED)
Director, MERLOT Africa Network
Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA 70813
(225) 771 2085



Henry Tillman
Southern University
Office of Communications
(225) 771-5497