Archive for the ‘Open Access’ Category

MERLOT announces Smart Search, a significant upgrade to its searching capabilities and a new UI to Content Builder, the web development tool

March 29, 2017

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?”

new hitlist pageSmart 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  While these resources are not peer reviewed or curated, users can contribute materials that show up in the hit list, to the MERLOT collection for subsequent curation and peer review by our 25 MERLOT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.

new CB screenshot
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 (  For assistance in getting started, check out the Content Builder User’s Guide.

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Get Off Your Duff and Use The Google

September 21, 2016

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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Beware the Use of “OER”

September 24, 2015

It’s time to bite the bullet. I’ve talked and written about the differences between Open Access, open source, and OER. I’ve said that the Open Access movement concerns free publications – journals or texts.  I’ve said that open source concerns free software. And I’ve said that UNESCO introduced the term OER more than a decade ago, and currently displays the following definition on their website:

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation.  (Citation

This definition is almost identical to the original 10+ year old definition. Note the use of the word “freely.”  They don’t say that OERs are cost-free.  But when you find something on the Web, and when those somethings display an “open license,” usually Creative Commons, you can see whether or not there’s a cost associated with your reuse of the something.

But, the practical reality of the definition of the word “freely” has evolved dramatically since UNESCO’s original definition.  Today, more than a decade later, and despite the vagueness of the meaning of the word “freely,” the operational definition of OER  is that this word has come to mean no cost.  That is, most everyone who uses or sees an OER today assumes that it’s completely free of cost. But it isn’t necessarily so. But where does that leave us?

Unfortunately, while most of the time OERs are free, from time to time they are not.  In MERLOT, we do not call our collection an OER collection.   That’s because there are some things in the collection that are not free of cost.  Mostly they’re there because they are really good; instructors, librarians and student should know about them.  So the materials are in the collection – with the notation that there is a cost associated with them.  But when you find things elsewhere that claim to be OERs, the situation is different.  Without a proper license, it’s buyer beware.  Misuse of a material that does have cost information associated with its reuse could have a cost for misuse later!

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A Word About Open Access Educational Technology Journals

March 17, 2014

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Last November I blogged about the true meaning of the word “open” as it relates to OER (Open Education Resources), Open Source (software), and Open Access (journals, journal articles and textbooks).  Today I want to expand a bit on the concept of Open Access (OA), and also provide a list of useful journal resources that are, in one way or another, Open Access.

If you want to know about the history of (or anything else about) OA, I suggest you reread my blog, Is it Really Open, or Google the term and choose from the 2.2 billion hits (in 0.22 seconds).  One of the other things you will probably discover is that OA can be pretty complicated.   For example, there are different levels of Open Access – Gold, Green, and some argue Platinum.

Open Access Platinum level means that the material is free to use and available from the publisher, as soon as the publisher makes it public – similar to MERLOT’s Journal of Learning and Teaching (JOLT).

Gold level material is usually also published by a real publisher – as opposed to self-published, but it’s usually not available for free the day it’s published.  So if you want to access Gold level OA material for free, you’ll have to wait 12-18 months (the “embargo” period) after it’s been first published.  If you want it sooner, you can buy it or subscribe to the journal.  How and when such material becomes free depends on the policies of the publisher.  Also, authors who choose to publish this way may have to give up their copyright to the publisher.  When that happens, the publisher can let the author make a not-final, “preprint” version of the paper immediately available on a server other than the publisher’s.   Many, if not most of IEEE’s recent journal articles are available this way.

To complicate all this a little more, some Gold publishers let authors pay a fee, after a submission has been reviewed and approved for publication, to forgo the embargo period, allowing the material to be freely available the day it’s published.  That is, for a fee paid by the author, these days it’s usually between $2K-$3K (or whatever the market will bear), a Gold paper is made immediately available to readers for free, somewhat like Platinum OA.

Green OA is like a green light given by a publisher to allow the author to immediately post their work on a server other than the publisher’s, for unrestricted free access.  So this is similar to Platinum in that it’s available right away, but not on the publisher’s server.

On top of all this is the matter of licensing.  Who owns the article or text that is made available as Open Access?  Traditionally, authors own what they write unless or until they sign away (transfer) the copyright to someone else – usually a publisher.  The transfer terms and restrictions on distribution can vary, and are a matter between the author and the publisher.  For true Green OA, there is no copyright transfer; authors own their material and do what they want with it.  In any case, like OER, OA materials, when posted online should carry a Creative Commons license informing readers how they can use or reuse the material.  The license may be issued by the author or the publisher, depending on who finally owns the copyright.

Below is a list of educational technology journals that claim to be Open Access.  Because it’s hard for publishers of OA to generate the kinds of revenue they need to stay in business, there’s no guarantee that any in the list will be there when you go to find them.

American Journal of Distance Education
Asian Journal of Distance Education
British Journal of Educational Technology
European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning
HETS Online Journal
International Journal of ePortfolio
International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning
Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN)
Journal of Distance Education
Journal of Educational Technology & Society
The Journal of Educators Online
Journal of Interactive Online Learning
Journal of Instructional Pedagogies
JOLT – Journal of Online Learning and Teaching
Journal of Virtual Worlds and Education
Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration
The Texas Journal of Distance Learning
International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning (all issues)
DEANZ – The Journal of Distance Learning

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