Special Announcement: March 16, 2020
As previously shared with our community, OLC and MERLOT continue to monitor the evolving factors related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, particularly with regard to our Innovate 2020 conference. Among recent developments, gatherings exceeding 1,000 people are now prohibited in the state of Illinois, which has contributed to our decision to move Innovate 2020 completely online, from June 15-26. We selected these dates in response to the many requests from our community asking that in the absence of a face to face event, that we hold an online event before the close of the 2020 fiscal year. We look forward to having you join us for this fully online event, and will be reaching out with complete details and the updated program shortly.
As we move Innovate 2020 completely online, we look forward to offering you the same vibrant programming, impactful networking, and opportunities to reflect and connect over the emerging and salient topics in our field. The virtual conference will include our regular offerings and opportunities for engagement, including sessions, workshops and summits, keynotes, and space to connect with sponsors, exhibitors, and educators from across the globe. In addition to participating in the live event, all attendees will have access to on-demand recordings for one (1) year. Moving our face-to-face conference to a fully online format presents us with the unique opportunity to spotlight the best of what the online modality affords – meaningful collaboration and the ability to reflect and connect with colleagues around the world. We hope that you will join us for this reimagined event, and celebrate our collective resilience and dedication to forging connections without boundaries.
OLC and MERLOT look forward to welcoming you to the Innovate 2020 Virtual Conference in June, and we are here to help you however we can with questions and requests for support. Please feel free to reach out to us with requests related to OLC Innovate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I promised just last month, get ready for another new MERLOT, but this time with an old label. We are returning to our roots and dropping the “II” from our name, calling it just “MERLOT.” But there’s nothing old about this new MERLOT.
Available as of March 14, 2018, the newest version of MERLOT has a completely new user interface, modeled after the most popular Web search site on the face of the planet. (Guess what that is!) In our continued effort to make it easier and easier for you to find online learning materials, we are providing an even more familiar and simple way to access our powerful search engine to find useful OERs anywhere on the Web.
And while it’s unlikely that you’ll need assistance to find what you need, or to access MERLOT’s rich function set, we have completely redesigned our context-sensitive help to guide you through any issues that arise while you’re using our newest MERLOT. Of course our webmaster will continue to be available at email@example.com in the unlikely event you need even more help.
In our last release we introduced our proprietary Smart Search to automatically help focus search results for the kinds of specific needs you might have. Given the limitless ways a search can be constructed, it’s possible or even likely that you might not conduct a search using the best set of parameters possible to meet your needs for specific learning materials. Our new ‘recommender’ infers your search objectives and provides additional results relevant to your original search. Don’t be surprised, when you see the recommender’s recommendations, to hear yourself say, “Hey, that learning material is a good recommendation. I never thought to search that way.”
And in keeping with the growing trend towards mobility, MERLOT has been reengineered using responsive web design (RWD) which, according to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsive_web_design), is an approach to web design which makes web pages render well on a variety of devices and screen sizes.” So if you are out and about and suddenly have a craving for a new OER, just grab your smart phone or tablet, launch your browser and go to www.merlot.org. And lo and behold, depending on the speed of your network, the new MERLOT will be immediately recognizable as if you were working on your laptop or desktop computer.
So here we are, in our 21st year, not as good as ever, but a whole lot better. And we intend to keep getting better and better!
MERLOT announced the release of the MERLOT Smart Search. This search extends access to online learning materials well beyond MERLOT’s curated and peer reviewed collection. Smart Search helps to answer the pervasive and nagging question, “Where can I find OERs?”
Smart Search searches the World Wide Web specifically for the kinds of learning materials that typical MERLOT users seek. It uses a proprietary MERLOT user profile design to find the newest and most popular learning materials available in learning materials libraries and also on the WWW. While these resources are not peer reviewed or curated, users can contribute materials that show up in the hit list, to the MERLOT collection for subsequent curation and peer review by our 25 MERLOT Editorial Boards. And materials discovered by Smart Search can be added to users’ MERLOT Bookmark Collections. Smart Search is easy to use: just click on the tab that describes the universe of resources you want to explore, and MERLOT does the smart searching for you.
Watch for more exciting extensions to the MERLOT Smart Search in the future. We intend to make MERLOT your first and last stop when you need to find quality and up-to-date OERs for your teaching and research. MERLOT help provides more information on the new Smart search.
A New user interface experience for MERLOT Content Builder. MERLOT is releasing a new interface design for its popular Web development tool, Content Builder. Originally built and supported by the Carnegie Foundation, MERLOT adopted and integrated the system into “main MERLOT” about 10 years ago.
Since then we have refined the functionality of the Content Builder, and with this latest release, have made the user interface even more intuitive. Join the thousands of Content Builder users and try it! Simply click on the “Create Materials with Content Builder” tile on the MERLOT home page (www.merlot.org). For assistance in getting started, check out the Content Builder User’s Guide.
Education innovation. It’s how we, as a community, continue to thrive in this rapidly changing learning environment. It’s how we respond to and guide student success and satisfaction. Whether embracing emerging tech, incorporating intelligent learning management systems, or designing blended classrooms, now more than ever it is imperative that academic leaders, faculty, and administrators alike come together to ensure that our pedagogies are progressive and continually break new ground.
Join us at Innovate 2017, April 5-7 in New Orleans, Louisiana. There will be a series of engaging hands-on workshops aimed at promoting interactions and collaborative cross-disciplinary problem solving. You’ll have the opportunity to explore emerging technologies and adapted teaching behaviors aimed at informing policy, inspiring leadership, and evolving practice at all levels impacting institutions, universities and colleges. Advancing education innovation begins with you. And it all starts at OLC/MERLOT Innovate. Please be there. New Orleans, April 5-7, 2017. https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/innovate/. And if you are unable to attend, consider the Virtual option. Find out more at https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/innovate/register/#virtual
I am tired of reading reports of surveys of instructors who are asked if they know what OERs are and whether or not they use them. I’m also tired of reading that people who know what they are don’t use them because they don’t know where to find them, they don’t know if what they find is any good, or a million other silly excuses.
First of all, if your colleagues don’t know what OERs are (and I’m assuming if you’re reading this, that you do), then they are either retired on the job, or they should be. I can’t understand how anyone these days doesn’t know what OERs are. They are reported on everywhere – including the popular media – except maybe on media like Entertainment Tonight, who only talk about the Kardashians – whatever they are.
About a year ago I set up a Google Alert to send me emails when Google picks up a press comment about OERs. I get at least one email daily showing me press reports that somehow refer to OERs – in the US, almost exclusively talking about the adoption of free e-texts.
After all these years since OER has been around, and after all the education that most of our colleagues have, it’s a mystery to me that some of them don’t know what OERs are, where to find them, or how to know if they’re any good or not. Haven’t they ever heard of “the Google?”
This business about where do you find OERs, is ridiculous. All you have to do is type “OER collections into the Google search bar. Guess how many hits you get? I just got 379,000 hits while I’m writing this blog.
Now there’s the question of how good or how bad OERs might be. Even that’s an easy one to discover. If an OER collection is legitimate, like MERLOT that has been around for almost 20 years, where there are lots of reviews and user ratings, it’s easy to say what’s good and what’s not good.
I think the only reason that people don’t use OER is that they are just simply too lazy to change how they’ve been teaching for however long they’ve been teaching. If instructors are really interested in doing the best job for their students, they have an obligation to learn more and to use OERs.
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If you think 2016 is the year of OERs, you are probably deluding yourself. Every January for the last 14 years, OER evangelists have thought, “This is it – the year of OERs! Finally.” And why not? Why shouldn’t it be? After all, all we’re trying to do is give instructors and students free and high quality learning and teaching materials that will help them to teach and to learn better. Why wouldn’t anyone want this?
Well, the reality seems to be that 1) people simply don’t believe that OERs are really free, or 2) they think that what they find in repositories just isn’t as good as what publishers produce, or 3) they delusionally believe that they can make better stuff themselves. Those of us who have been working in the OER “industry” for a long time understand that none of this is true. OER’s really are free; they may or may not be as good as what publishers produce; and most people are amateurs when it comes to creating effective online teaching and learning materials. But the truth is, you can get OER’s for free!
But the real drawback to more widespread use of OERs is that people simply don’t have time to change what they’ve always been doing. That means that while they may silently recognize the fallacies in their objections, they really can’t be bothered to explore the value of OERs.
So what can we do to convince people to change their behavior and to do that which is good for them and their students? Probably nothing. The situation will not change until mandates and dictates are issued by administrators who recognize the benefits of OERs, in terms of quality and in terms of cost effectiveness, to promote OER use and reward OER users.
In the meantime, we evangelists have to keep doing what we’re doing so that when the time finally comes we can say, “I told you so.”
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