Public Affairs, The California State University

Implementing Interactive, Adaptive and More Affordable Learning Solutions

By Stephanie Thara

CSU faculty and staff collaborating with online publishers and fellow colleagues on how to collectively contribute materials and implement effective online learning solutions.
CSU faculty and staff collaborating with online publishers and fellow colleagues on how to collectively contribute materials and implement effective online learning solutions.

The CSU community is constantly collaborating to find additional innovative ways to enhance the learning experience and foster student success using technology. An example of this is the CSU’s systemwide Rent Digital program which provides students with access to thousands of online textbooks at a cost that is at least 60 percent less than the price of hardcover textbooks. To further the discussion on techniques that simplify access to information using online platforms, CSU faculty and staff took part in the Annual Affordable Learning Solutions Workshop.

During the conference, campuses that have successfully implemented online platforms shared best practices about how to effectively and efficiently utilize the virtual marketplace. For example, the Chico State Textbook Alternative Project shared details about their grant project that awarded eight faculty members with iPads, encouraging them to discover affordable alternatives to traditional print textbooks. As a result, seven implemented digital options such as directing students to use free and low cost apps, creating videos with their iPads, utilizing free “open” textbooks and tapping open source software to compose their own textbooks. This led to an estimated total savings for students of over $39,600 in just one semester.

“It’s inspiring to hear about the successes around affordability on campuses,” said Leslie Kennedy, director of the Affordable Learning Solutions Initiative. “Our goal is to help make students successful and it’s not just one group who can make a difference. It’s all of us, working as a community, to find effective, affordable learning solutions.”

In addition to sharing exemplary practices among their CSU colleagues, attendees learned how other university systems were implementing virtual platforms. The University System of Georgia equalizes access to information by providing extensive virtual libraries to their students, as well as to the entire population of Georgia. CSU librarians and program developers in the audience gathered ideas about how to implement simultaneous access to electronic books, periodicals, journals, magazines and newspapers to an unlimited audience.

California State Student Association officers Anthony Gibson and Dwayne Mason enlightened the conference with details on how students want to interact and what they expect from digital learning. Having a role in the development of a recently published a white paper about online education, Gibson and Mason gave tips on how online education can be more dynamic and interactive, as well as how to make it highly accessible and user-friendly for both students and faculty.

“We love the kind of teachers who take the instruction beyond the classroom,” said Mason. “The kinds of professors who find where students are—like on Facebook or on Google—and engage them there.”