MERLOT: A FREE Online Course Design Community

By Peter Connor

Given that successful teaching and learning outcomes rest partially upon the lectures, handouts, homework assignments and assessment tools upon which the instruction is based, wouldn’t it be great if there was a FREE database of proven teaching and learning materials to cherry-pick from in the development stages of planning a new course?

Luckily, we live in a digital world. Thanks to the Internet, untold resources are at our fingertips. A little Google time cruising through cyberspace proves that. Make no mistake, though; being the repository of a great deal of the knowledge humankind has acquired since—yes, the dawn of time—is not without its drawbacks. Chiefly, the Internet does not discriminate: And therein lies a substantial problem. There’s a lot of junk out there to steer clear of in order to get to the good stuff.

That said—here’s a great shortcut through the jungle—google the word merlot. Coming in at number one—over and above a variety of fruit-of-the vine links—sits the acronym MERLOT. Not just a medium-bodied, red-wine grape, MERLOT is also an extraordinary open-source, user-friendly Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching.

Its Underlying Vision: To be a leading, peer-reviewed, searchable collection of higher education course teaching materials and tools; a community—created by and for educators—for sharing pedagogical advice, experience, and expertise.

Its Overarching Goal: To improve learning and teaching effectiveness by increasing the quantity and quality of online peer-reviewed materials for instructors all over the world to access and craft into their own individual course design strategies.

By registering on MERLOT.org you join a global community of faculty, staff, and students sharing a growing body of proven teaching and learning materials. Organized along the lines of an online shopping mall, you may enter through either the Discipline, Workforce Development, or Partner Community portals. Through drop-down menus, each portal provides a broad range of resources geared toward your specific selection.

For instance, the Discipline Community includes the following drop-down menu selections from which you can browse for lectures and presentations, quizzes and tests, web applet simulations, animations, tutorials, drills and practices as well as reference materials, teaching strategies, associations, journals, conferences and other professional development resources:

  • Biology
  • Business
  • Chemistry
  • Criminal Justice
  • Engineering
  • Faculty Development
  • Health Sciences
  • History
  • Information Technology
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Physics
  • Professional Coaching
  • Psychology
  • Statistics
  • World Languages

Each selection is further categorized. For instance, the Biology categories include the following:

  • Botany (153)
  • Microbiology (111)
  • Molecular Biology (40)
  • Natural History (40)
  • Physiology (182)
  • Zoology (117)
  • Cytology (134)
  • Development (49)
  • Ecology (121)
  • Evolution (116)
  • General (100)
  • Genetics (208)
  • Human Anatomy (174)
  • Life (23)

The Bottom Line: There is a place from which to cherry-pick high-quality, peer-reviewed learning and teaching materials—MERLOT—an open-source Web site, on which everything is FREE, including membership.

NOTE: Registration is not required to access and use MERLOT's collection of materials; however, by becoming a registered member, you may make your own contributions to the collection and have them peer-reviewed. What a great way to share your pedagogical successes with a larger community.

Check it out at MERLOT.org

Contributors:

Thanks to Prof. Darrel Fontane (Engineering MTI Coordinator) for bringing the MERLOT Web site to the attention of the TILT Tip-Writing Team.