Free the OERs?

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Over the last few years, the adjective “open” in Open Education Resources (OER) has come to mean “free.”  That is, an OER, for all practical purposes is being interpreted by most people as Web-based materials that are free of cost.  In addition, some (many?) are claiming that for an OER to really be an OER, it must carry a CC BY license.  If these things are in fact true, that would mean that if you find something on the WWW, you don’t have to pay to use it, you can change it any way you like, use it any way you like – whether for commercial or non-commercial purposes, just so long as you give attribution to your source.  Sounds pretty liberal to me.  Maybe too liberal? What do you think?

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New Survey on MERLOT OERs

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Homilies can be misleading.  “You get what you pay for.”  Or, “The best things in life are free.” Which is it?   Clearly they can’t both be right.  In the case of Open Education Resources (OER), the best things in life really are free.  I am constantly amazed by discussions and debates about the value of OER.  It’s pretty clear to me, and I can’t understand why it’s not clear to everyone, that OER is a free resource that anyone can voluntarily use, or not.  If you discover something and don’t like it or think it is inappropriate for your needs, you can just ignore it.  This is especially true if you are searching MERLOT ( where you can often tell something about the quality and appropriateness of the learning materials that you find there.

A few years ago I taught an online course for Sloan-C (now known as Online Learning Consortium).  One of the course topics concerned the use of repositories such as MERLOT’s, for instructors to discover and use OER.  When I later asked the students of the course, all of whom were fulltime instructors at colleges and universities, if they found the course valuable, almost all said yes.  When I asked them if they intended to use OER repositories in their own teaching, they were more equivocal.  They told me that the felt they didn’t have enough time to integrate discovered OER into their everyday teaching activities.  This is a pretty sad state of affairs because most of us, for whatever reasons, often cop out, and because of time constraints or just plain laziness adopt a course textbook that will wind up costing students $100 or more.  This is particularly sad, since there are so many OERs available for free that would cost the students practically nothing.  MERLOT contains, for example hundreds of Open Access textbooks that would satisfy many course requirements.  Even when a conventional textbook is adopted, the MERLOT ISBN Finder can be used by an instructor or even a student to find supplementary OERs related to an adopted textbook.

If you are a user of MERLOT OER, I invite you to participate in a new survey co-sponsored by MERLOT and the UK Open University’s OER Research Hub in which we are trying to learn about the usefulness of OER.  What are your thoughts about the usefulness of MERLOT OER?  Participate in this survey and help us to cast some light on how we can make OER more useful and cost effective for both ourselves and our students. All comments are welcome!

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Lecturing to the Choir – An Abuse of Instructional Technology

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If you were to define a continuous scale of worst to best teaching modalities, I suspect that at one end, and you can figure out which, you’d probably find large lectures.  At the other end (the “best” end, in case you missed it), you would find something like personal tutors.  The characteristics of each are pretty clear, and the pros and cons of each are also pretty clear, but let’s recap some of them anyway.

Let’s start with the “bad” end – the lecture end.  Clearly, the best part of lectures is that on aper/student basis, the costs are relatively fixed, and in many ways relatively low.  By ‘costs’ I mean the cost to the institution delivering the instruction.  In fact, the larger the class, the less the per/student cost.  Of course that cost is totally unrelated to the cost to the student.  That cost, normally called tuition and fees, often doesn’t seem to be related at all to institutional instructional delivery costs.  Sometimes, depending on the institution, it might even seem that student costs are inversely proportional to instructional delivery costs.  But that’s a topic for another day. 

So, by some ridiculous reasoning, considering only fiscal matters, it behooves an institution to deliver as much instruction as possible via large lectures.  But what about quality of instruction, or perhaps we should ask, what about student learning outcomes?  I would argue that we don’t really know.  Aside from those ridiculous student evaluations, based on our cumulative millions of person-hours of experience lecturing, most of us, both instructors and students probably agree that this instructional mode belongs at the “bad” end of our spectrum. 

So let’s look at the other end of our spectrum, the “good” end.  That’s where a single tutor teaches a single student in real time, for however long it takes for the student to learn whatever is being taught.  In general, and aside from idiosyncratic matters such as personality clashes between student and mentor, this is probably the best way to ensure that a student will learn what is being taught.  After all, in a private, personal and individualized instructional setting, a good tutor should be monitoring, understanding, and adapting the instruction in real time, depending on many, many different factors, most of which are a function of student behavior in the instructional setting. 

Now from a fiscal standpoint, it’s just common sense that one-to-one instruction for any particular instructional objective is much more costly than the one-to-many model of lectures.  So all in all, the “good” end of our spectrum is characterized by better learning at higher costs, and the other end, at best, by questionable learning at lower costs,

Now if we were in the business of delivering instruction in the least costly manner possible, without real concern for learning outcomes, certainly we’d choose practices and methodologies that characterize the ‘bad’ end of our spectrum.  On the other hand, if we were in the business of delivering the best instruction possible without much concern for fiscal matters, we’d focus on the other end of the spectrum.

So if that’s the case, why are so many institutions that are charged with educating and preparing our citizens of the future, jumping on online technologies that are characterized by the ‘bad’ end of the spectrum, and not selecting those that characterize the good end?  It’s not like they don’t have what to choose from.   Let’s consider the biggest, “bad” end, lecture bandwagon of them all – MOOCs.  Delivering online instruction to hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of students at a time is clearly the worst imaginable instructional practice.  If it weren’t, we wouldn’t have such incredible drop out and failure rates.    So what’s the alternative, at the “good” end?  It’s something called adaptive learning, or what online teaching and learning was meant to be in the first place.

When all this online stuff started in the middle of the 20th Century, all of it focused on the individual as a learner.  In fact, it was called “individualized instruction.”  Why would anyone want to use technology to emulate the worst teaching model available?  But through the decades, and because of the huge and complex effort required to do a good job designing and delivering individualized online instruction, we got lazy and began to opt for group-oriented LMS-delivered lectures.  And now with MOOCs, we’ve taken that bad model and made it even worse – using technology to lecture to thousands and thousands of students at a time.

The argument in favor of MOOC’s that seems to be prevalent is that at a relatively low instructional delivery cost,  if we enroll a class of 1,000,000, and get a 3% success rate, then 30,000 students will have been successful.  But what about the other 970,000 students?  Oh right.  Those students have now been exposed to the brilliance of the lecturer(s) responsible for the course, and without the MOOC, that would never have been the case.  On the other hand, as data are becoming available, we are learning more and more about the so-called successful students.  It turns out that most of them are nothing like the kinds of undergraduate students’ colleges and universities should be trying to reach.  In fact, most of those ‘students’  already have degrees, and have somehow managed to be academically successful before they signed on to their first MOOC lecture.

Is this a responsible approach to delivering quality instruction? Is this what higher education should be focusing on?  I don’t think so.  How are we using technology to improve the learning of undergraduate students?  We aren’t.  We are simply delivering instruction without much consideration of what it’s achieving.  And all that is because it’s easier to lecture than to tutor.

Who ever said that teaching and learning should be easy?  Difficult as it is, I think we need to return to where online learning started – to technology-based individualized, self-paced instruction.  We need to use technology to emulate the best of our teaching methodologies – the tutor, rather than the worst – the lecture.  Thankfully to help us, we still have brave frontiersmen who are fighting the fight with the development of adaptive systems.  These systems use new technologies such as cloud and big data to adapt, in real time, online instruction to suit the learner and the learning situation.  This stuff isn’t easy, but it’s got a better chance of doing the job right – especially if we care more about quality than cost.  I welcome your comments on this subject. 

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Open Access – Continued and Revisited

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Open Access – Continued and Revisited

In my previous blog about OA, I was trying to be as succinct as possible, providing information about the topic – which, as I have noted before, should not be confused with Open Education Resources (OER).  I was aware when I wrote the blog, that because the definitions of Green and Gold can be a bit “fuzzy” around the edges, that I might get responses regarding the simplified definitions that I had provided.  Sure enough, I did receive a couple of personal and friendly emails, and the folks who sent them have kindly agreed to allow me to republish them verbatim, both rectifying and clarifying some of what I wrote.   It’s thanks to our shared philosophies of “openness” that we can all benefit from the interplay of ideas, comments, and suggestions such as these to help us to build an increasingly strong, shared intellectual community.

1.  From Seb Schmoller, Sheffield, UK

I picked up on because when I was CEO of the UK’s Association for Learning Technology I was responsible for transitioning our journal Research in Learning Technology (RLT) from conventional to Open Access.

I must say I was surprised not to see Research in Learning Technology listed in your post.  But that is not the main point of this email. More importantly, I was much more surprised to see journals listed in your post e.g. and that are not Open Access journals in the currently understood sense of the term.

Essentially, these journals have recently started to allow authors if they wish to pay a publication fee, resulting in that particular article being openly available. In contrast, Open Access journals proper, like RLT, make all their content freely available usually under a Creative Commons license, in RLT’s case using the most open license, namely CC-BY.  The do this either by requiring all authors to pay a publication fee, or, as in RLT’s case by not charging a publication fee in the first place.

Kind regards, Seb

2.  From Caroline Sutton, Co-Founder/ Publisher, Co-Action Publishing

As the Past President of OASPA (Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association) and as the co-founder of Co-Action Publishing, an Open Access Scholarly Publishing house, which publishes Research in Learning Technology, UNIPED, Education Inquiry, Medical Education Online and Journal of European Continuing Medical Education, I hope you won’t mind my reaching out to you.

Your blog item confuses hybrid offerings and open access publishing (gold). Gold is free access as well as re-use rights (at least for non-commercial purposes) immediately upon publication. The author retains copyright, or at least the non-commercial copyright in the case of a Creative Commons Non-Commercial license being applied. Open Access publishing (gold) entails making the article/journal freely available immediately upon publication. This is the final published version. This can also be re-used according to the license conditions.

For some journals this is financed through article processing charges (APCs), also known as publication fees. In this case the author would receive an invoice. In some cases an institution will have an agreement with a publisher and the bill will go straight to an institution or funder.  In other cases, authors receive no invoices. This might be because the journal is supported by a grant, or for Research in Learning Technology, for instance, the society pays the full costs of publishing the journal. In this case the journal is both free to use and free to publish in (and free to re-use as long as the original source is attributed).

In contrast, the journals you list offer a “hybrid” solution. This means that an author can choose to pay a fee to free up that specific article, whilst the journal otherwise is under a subscription or licensing situation. What one buys when paying this fee can vary from the article being published under a creative commons license that allows free re-use in addition to use, to the article simply being available immediately to be read. These conditions vary from publisher to publisher.

Co-Action Publishing is a firm believer in making educational research open access. Our journals provide immediate free access and re-use of content upon publication.  Thank you for your time in reading my comment above. I am happy to answer any questions you might have about open access publishing.

Kind regards, Caroline

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A Word About Open Access Educational Technology Journals

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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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We are often asked where the materials in the MERLOT collection come from. After all, there are more than 44,000 “open” learning objects there that can be discovered, shared, and often modified for reuse.  In fact, while practically everything in the repository can be labeled as “open,” in one way or another, the MERLOT system itself is not open.  That is, it is not “open source” as I described in a previous blog. The MERLOT software is proprietary.

Nevertheless, users accessing the MERLOT system may copy and reuse any of the webpages that are displayed by the system. Our Acceptable Use Agreement delineates how various webpages that are displayed by the MERLOT system can be used by our community Members who may wish to reproduce those pages as screenshots in presentations or journal articles. In general, our webpages can be reused and even modified, provided proper attribution to MERLOT is included in the reused material. You can even reuse comments and discussions that you find on the MERLOT site, provided that you don’t modify the wording of those items. This makes sense if you consider that quoted comments or discussions should never be modified, whether they are discovered in MERLOT or anywhere else.

But getting back to the MERLOT collection of materials itself, virtually all the contents are contributed by our community of registered Members who have either discovered the material somewhere on the web and want to share their discovery with colleagues, or have created new materials using any of the many web development tools, including our own Content Builder.  (Alert: If you want to use the Content Builder, you have to register as a MERLOT “Member.”  Membership is free, and you can get to it right from the MERLOT homepage.)

Whenever a material is contributed to the collection, among the descriptors (metadata) that we hope the contributor provides is whether or not the material has a Creative Commons license.  If a material is created with the Content Builder, and the developer wishes to make public that material, either by submitting it to the MERLOT collection or by posting the link somewhere, the developer MUST include a Creative Commons license. After all, MERLOT does subscribe to the philosophies espoused by Creative Commons and will take every opportunity to promote them.  For more information on Creative Commons, go to

Other sources of materials in the collection have been harvested from other collections under some kind of agreement or memorandum of understanding with the owner of the collection.  For example, there are many high-quality but smaller collections created and supported by for- and non-profit organizations around the world. Often times those organizations decide that they would like to have their collection Incorporated into MERLOT’s more publicly visible repository. In such cases MERLOT has software and procedures to enable the “batch” input of those collections into the MERLOT database. For example, we have imported hundreds of foreign language learning objects this way from our international partners, Meital and INACAP.  Also, sometimes organizations, formally or informally, wish to partner with us in order to synergistically promote more widespread use of Open Education Resources. As an example, MERLOT has used its batch import methodologies to input many of the Open Education Courseware Consortium’s (OCWC) open courses into our collection. This enables the MERLOT community to access a wide selection of open courses all identified as coming from the OCWC.

So you see, when you visit the MERLOT website to find reusable learning objects for a course you are developing, or to contribute new materials to the collection, you are participating in a worldwide community and network of colleagues with interests similar to yours. As individuals or as organizations together we foster a global cause of improved teaching and learning through the use of OER.

Blatant Placement Advertisements.  In addition to making even more OERs available to the MERLOT community, MERLOT tries to promote the activities of our partners.  For example, because of our relationship with OCWC, an organization whose philosophies are perfectly aligned with ours, we encourage you and your institution to participate in the OCWC-initiated, Open Education Week 2014, March 10-15.

The month of April too, looks to be a very exciting month for educators interested in OER.  For starters MERLOT and our partner Sloan- C are hosting our annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning conference in Dallas, April 9-11.  And later on in the month (April 23-25), the OCWC Global Conference entitled, “Open Education for a Multicultural World” is being held in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

So, If you’re not already a Member, search MERLOT, join MERLOT, and start participating in the world of OER.  If it’s not in our collection, maybe you’ll find it in Dallas. Or Ljubljana.

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Is it Really Open?

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If you are reading this blog, you probably know a fair bit about the concept of “openness.” You may even think that an “open” item is something that you can find online that is free, and available for your use, and even for your reuse. By “reuse” I mean that you think you can change it and then “reuse” it for your teaching or research needs.

Well, that may or may not be true. In fact, the word “open” can be used in a number of contexts. For example, when we talk about “open source,” we are explicitly referring to software. Moodle, the learning management system (LMS) is an example of open source software. The source code is available for you to reuse, modify, etc. as you wish. Of course there can be other conditions related to open source software, but that is beyond the scope of this blog.

Then there is the term “Open Access.” Open Access is a movement that concerns the publication of free, online journals, journal articles, and textbooks. Material published under an Open Access policy is generally freely available for you to access without having to subscribe to a publication, or even join a society that publishes such publications. The Open Access movement started as a result of demand by various research communities to allow government-funded research to be freely available since the public (taxpayers) had already paid for it. The Open Access movement has been extended beyond journals and journal articles to now include textbooks. You should note however, that just because something is Open Access doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a copyright. In fact, such materials continue to be owned (copyrighted) by the author, the publisher, or both. And if you cite material from an Open Access publication, it must be cited in exactly the same manner as if the material were from a traditional publication.

Finally we have Open Education Resources (OERs). This is a term that was first defined more than 10 years ago at a Hewlett foundation-supported UNESCO conference, and it concerns online learning materials, sometimes called learning objects. Hewlett defines OERs as:

OER (sic) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. (For more information, visit

From a practical sense, OER’s generally have a license that indicates what you can and cannot do with them. Creative Commons (CC) licensing ( defines six possible licenses that an OER can carry. Depending on the license, they may or may not be free, and you may or may not alter them. It all depends on what the owner of the OER declares in the CC license.

The MERLOT collection ( is unique in that it contains a wide selection of open materials, many of them carrying a Creative Commons license. The materials include Open Access articles, Open Access textbooks, open journal articles and OER’s. The MERLOT OER’s include learning materials as” microscopic” as simulations or animations that can be embedded by an instructor into an online course, through to complete online courses.

It’s really easy to search MERLOT II for all or any open texts, open courses, and OER’s, with and without Creative Commons licenses. I urge you to visit, click on the Search tile, and explore our Advanced Search functions. While you’re at it, you might check out our Search Other Libraries tile) which allows you to search more than 20 other libraries of learning materials, all at the same time. Remember, if you’re looking for free textbooks, you want to look for the category “open texts.” Or, for free courses, look for “open courseware.” And if you need more guidance in how to do this, you can visit the new context-sensitive Help part of our new MERLOT, or you can email the webmaster at

Happy hunting!

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The following press release announcing MERLOT II was distributed on October 14 and the new version of MERLOT was shown publicly at the MERLOT booth at the show.

PRESS RELEASE – October 14, 2013

MERLOTII Booth at Educause '13

On October 15, CSU-MERLOT will premiere the enhanced Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT II) website at the EDUCAUSE annual conference in Anaheim, Calif. One of the first peer-reviewed, open online libraries of higher education learning materials, MERLOT was developed by the California State University and is an open resource community that features more than 40,000 free online learning materials including open textbooks, open journals, animations, case studies, simulations, virtual labs and more for nearly every higher education discipline in an easily searchable open library. The CSU utilizes MERLOT to provide free access to high-quality online materials, a key part of the University’s initiative to use technology to improve student success while maintaining affordability.

“As more faculty look to incorporate online resources into their courses, MERLOT continues to be a leader in ensuring that peer reviewed online learning materials are easily available and free of charge,” said Gerry Hanley, assistant vice chancellor of Academic Technology Services for the CSU Chancellor’s Office and executive director of MERLOT.

New and improved features offered on the enhanced MERLOT website include simplified navigation, more powerful search functions, mobile-tablet readiness, access to new social networking features and authoring tools all aimed at delivering robust services that are very user-friendly for teachers and learners.

MERLOT also serves a worldwide community of individual members, higher education, institutional and corporate partners all dedicated to improving education.  Those who join the MERLOT community by registering as members can contribute learning materials, receive peer recognition and share their online expertise with more than 115,000 existing MERLOT members from across the globe.

Please click here to view the new MERLOT website, access tens of thousands of free high-quality online materials and join the MERLOT community.

#   #   #

MERLOT is a free and open online community and resource designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy. MERLOT provides leading edge, user-centered collections of peer-reviewed higher education online learning materials catalogued by registered members, as well as delivers a range of open educational services.

MERLOT’s strategic goal is to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning by increasing the quantity and quality of peer reviewed online learning materials that can be easily incorporated into faculty designed courses.

MERLOT’s activities are based on the creative collaboration and support of its Individual Members, Institutional Partners, Corporate Partners and Editorial Boards.

Integral to MERLOT’s continuing development of faculty development support services are its:

  • Building and sustaining online      academic communities
  • Online teaching and learning initiatives
  • Building, organizing, reviewing,      and developing applications of online teaching-learning materials

MERLOT maintains its currency through ongoing and continuing communication with its worldwide supporters in a variety of ways, including the annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Conference with the Sloan Consortium, the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT), member publications, news and our  MERLOT Voices website to enable users to communicate with others.

MOOCs, MERLOT, and Open Educational Services: A Message from the MERLOT Executive Director

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MOOCs, MERLOT, and Open Educational Services:
A Message from the MERLOT Executive Director

The appearance of massive open online courses (MOOCs) may seem sudden, but for those who have been laboring in the vineyard learning to use technology to create and distribute content, mediate pedagogical interaction, and facilitate the business processes of education, MOOCs are the just the next stage in the development of open educational resources (OER). The evolution of OER began with open learning objects (LOs) in the late 1990s. These LOs crawled from the primordial technological sea and continued evolving with the OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiatives in the early 2000s, which were then followed by open textbooks (OTs) (see Figure 1). MERLOT’s new student-centered portal, MERLOTx, provides easy access to this wide range of OER species.

Explanation of MOOC's
Figure 1. MOOCs as a recent evolution of OER

Educators welcomed each of these OER species happily and without much threat to the ecosystem of higher education. But at this early stage of MOOC evolution, there are different reactions. Optimists see synergy in the open online character of MOOCs that is a panacea for expanding access to affordable learning, developing new pedagogical techniques, and enabling global learning communities to create knowledge together. Pessimists see instead an invasive species that will destroy institutions, demobilize faculties, and dilute learning to a fast food, virtual drive-by experience.

Realistically, MOOCs are too new for there to be compelling evidence of their value, cost, and risks. The potential benefits and threats to academic quality, student outcomes, institutional integrity, and administrative processes are not yet known. However, the emerging features of MOOCs that have made them distinctive from the other types of OER are the services integrated with the content. The MOOC platforms for organizing and delivering the multimedia content, integrated with the social media tools for engaging individuals, and the assessment and analytic tools for providing feedback on learning and teaching are critical services that manage the content delivery within a design for learning. These services available through the open enrollment of MOOCs are the additional benefits that have been recognized as valuable by some learners, teachers, and institutions.

Open educational services are the tools that are free for anyone to use to design their own program of study using OERs or proprietary content. MERLOT has been providing open educational services to the world for years. MERLOT’s open library provides easy and free access to a diversity of free learning resources to support the individual’s learning needs, including developing the prerequisite knowledge and skills to successfully complete a MOOC or an online, hybrid, or face-to-face course. MERLOT’s Personal Collection tool enables individuals to organize and annotate their selected learning resources by defining their course of study, their learning outcomes, their prerequisite learning needs, their assessment methods, and more. MERLOT provides a “one-click” function for sharing personal collections, which then can be personalized. MERLOT’s Content Builder tool enables individuals to create an e-portfolio that can capture and share skills and knowledge; learners can publish their learning products with a user-friendly, web-authoring tool using text, images, and videos, and their e-portfolio can be formatted in an IMS Common Cartridge with Creative Commons licensing for easy distribution. MERLOT hosts these e-portfolios and enables members to share their works with a click of a button.

All these open educational services are available for free to MERLOT members (and it is free to become a member too). The MERLOT member community is also a valuable service for learning and teaching. Looking for experts in any field? MERLOT’s easy browsing and searching can help you find experts in a wide range of disciplines. MERLOT’s Virtual Speakers Bureau can be used to find “guest experts” with specialty skills, knowledge, and willingness to engage through technology tools. Looking to participate in online discussions? MERLOT Voices offers a platform for threaded discussions, sharing documents, posting images and video, instant messaging, and blogging.

MERLOT’s open educational services form the foundation of capabilities that can be leveraged to achieve institutional goals cost effectively. The California State University system employs MERLOT within its Affordable Learning Solutions initiative to save students money on their course materials, and this service has in turn been leveraged by a MERLOT partner, the University System of Georgia, for their own Affordable Learning Georgia initiative. The MERLOT Teaching Commons Services provide any partner a customized “portal” that blends MERLOT’s services into the institution’s initiatives (see Partner Communities). While MOOCs provide open enrollment of their services, MERLOT provides open educational services that enable registered MERLOT members to reuse, remix, publish, and share OER, and empowers them to teach and learn anytime and anywhere with Internet access.

* Reposted from the MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT), Special Issue on MOOCs.

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———————————————————————————- MERLOT II is Coming


MERLOT has been around for almost 15 years!  The site is showing its age which is why we have embarked on a new MERLOT or what we are calling, MERLOT II.  The MERLOT Development Team has been very busy the last few  months focusing on the development of  a “new” MERLOT or MERLOT II. Look for MERLOT II coming to a computer near you soon. In addition to a new look and feel, MERLOT II will showcase some of the rich system features that make up the site. We want to make as many of our valuable features more obvious, available, and accessible to our community of users. MERLOT has a treasure trove of features and functions, and wants the OER community to know that we’re “Open” for business!