2002 Conference Proceedings

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Tamarah M. Ashton, Ph.D.
California State University, Northridge
Dept. of Special Education
18111 Nordhoff St.
Northridge, CA 91330-8265

MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching) is located at www.merlot.org. This searchable database of online learning materials is an open resource designed primarily for faculty and students in higher education. Information hosted in MERLOT is free to use for educational, non-commercial purposes, and materials linked to by MERLOT have a range of license agreements from public domain to commercial. The links to the learning materials are in MERLOT to help users find these web sites. With a continually growing collection of online learning materials, assignments, and reviews, MERLOT helps faculty enhance instruction. MERLOT is also a community of people who strive to enrich teaching and learning experiences.

MERLOT was created in 1997 by the California State University Center for Distributed Learning and has developed into a project of many elements. MERLOT's mission is to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning by expanding the quantity and quality of peer-reviewed online learning materials that can be easily incorporated into faculty designed courses.

There are currently 13 discipline areas contained within MERLOT. They are Biology, Business, Chemistry, Engineering, Health Science, History, Information Technology, Mathematics, Music, Physics, Psychology, Teacher Education, and World Languages. Each discipline has numerous subcategories included within it. For example, Teacher Education covers Classroom Management, Diversity and Multicultural Education, Educational Foundations, Educational Psychology, Educational Research, Instructional Technology, Special Education, Student Assessment, and Teaching Methods.

A discipline team composed of faculty across the nation convene to evaluate and peer review selected sites within the MERLOT database. Any member/user of MERLOT, however, can submit learning objects, write user comments, and add assignments. The interactive nature of the site is one of its most vital elements.

SUBMITTING LEARNING OBJECTS: As MERLOT users complete Internet searches and come across sites they feel would have beneficial use in online instruction for their particular subject area interest, they may "submit" that site. In so doing, he/she writes a brief description of the site through an online submission process. Other users can immediately see and interact with that person's submission.

WRITING USER COMMENTS: Once a MERLOT user has reviewed and/or used a particular site that has already been submitted to MERLOT, he/she is encouraged to write a brief comment regarding that site. Comments may include potential uses, how a site was actually used in teaching and learning, and potential positive/negative aspects about the site.

ADDING ASSIGNMENTS: MERLOT users can also submit assignments they have successfully used with their students. Others may duplicate those assignments with their own classes, or modify them to suit their own purposes. Users are also encouraged to write comments about the usability of assignments and their value for inclusion in instruction.

For more information about MERLOT, visit the web site at http://www.merlot.org. The "Tasting Room" links to a number of pages with additional background information about MERLOT. Each discipline area listed above has its own site within MERLOT for easy access to a particular content area. The categories of Special Education and Instructional Technology will be used to demonstrate the MERLOT site and its possible uses within a higher education framework. Attendees will be given directions on how to join the MERLOT community of users, how to use and create assignments within MERLOT, and how to give user comments to share their experiences with other MERLOT users.

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