MERLOT (Multimedia Education Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) is an international consortium of over 20 institutions (and systems) of higher education, industry partners, professional organizations and individuals devoted to identifying, peer reviewing, organizing and making available existing WWW resources in a range of academic disciplines for use by higher education faculty and students. One product of the collaboration among these partners is a website, hosted by the California State University, which serves as a repository of online resources.
The MERLOT project began in 1997, when the California State University Center for Distributed Learning (CSU-CDL at www.cdl.edu) developed and provided free access to MERLOT. Under the leadership of Chuck Schneebeck, CSU-CDL's Director, MERLOT was modeled after the NSF funded project, "Authoring Tools and An Educational Object Economy (EOE)". Led by Dr. James Spohre and hosted by Apple Computer, and other industry, university, and government collaborators, the EOE developed and distributed tools to enable the formation of communities engaged in building shared knowledge bases of learning materials.
In 1998, a State Higher Education Executives Organization/American Productivity and Quality Center (SHEEO/APQC) benchmarking study on faculty development and instructional technology selected the CSU-CDL as one of six best practices centers in North America. Visitations to the CSU-CDL by higher education institutions participating in the benchmarking students resulted in interest in collaborating with the CSU on the MERLOT project. The University of Georgia System, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, University of North Carolina System, and the California State University System created an informal consortium representing almost one hundred campuses serving over 900,000 students and over 47,000 faculty. SHEEO was the coordinator for the cooperative of the four state systems.
In 1999, the four systems recognized the significant benefits of a cooperative initiative to expand the MERLOT collections, conduct peer reviews of the digital learning materials, and add student learning assignments. Each system contributed $20,000 in cash to develop the MERLOT software and over $30,000 in in-kind support to advance the collaborative project. The CSU maintained its leadership of and responsibilities for the operation and improvement of processes and tools.In January, 2000, the four systems sponsored 48 faculty from the disciplines of Biology, Physics, Business and Teacher Education (12 faculty from each of the four systems) to develop evaluation standards and peer review processes for on-line teaching-learning material. In April, 2000, other systems and institutions of higher education were invited to join the MERLOT cooperative. In July, 2000, twenty-three (23) systems and institutions of higher education had become Institutional Partners of MERLOT. Each Institutional Partner contributed $25,000 and in-kind support for eight faculty and a project director (part-time) to coordinate MERLOT activities. The CSU continued its leadership of and responsibilities for the operation and improvement of processes and tools.Projects and Publications
In 2009, MERLOT took over The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching's KEEP Toolkit and it became the MERLOT Content Builder. At that time, any KEEP Toolkit user who wished to maintain their web pages could become a MERLOT member and automatically have their projects migrated and hosted by MERLOT.
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MERLOT has been particularly influential in the development of online education and has been successful in, "developing a professional evaluation model to promote scholarship of teaching in the universities." MERLOT hosts one of the world's largest collections of Open textbooks through the Open Textbook Project in collaboration with student-run Public Interest Research Groups. MERLOT has been cited as one of the most effective electronic portals for health care information.
MERLOT has been influential as a model in the development of other online communities and resource repositories, including innovative collaborations with IBM and the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (an Educause program), and as an important tool for educational reform (especially in STEM fields). MERLOT has itself become the subject of research.
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