Issue No. 31, Spring 2014

news features tech stuff upcoming events the numbers



Emerging Technologies for Online Learning 2014 Conference

The Sloan-C/MERLOT ET4OL Conference was held at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, April 9-11. This was our fifth year in partnership with the Sloan Consortium. This year's Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium brought together 700+ onsite and 1,000+ virtual attendees representing 47 states including D.C. and 23 countries. If you weren't able to attend, you can still gain access to over 60 presentations, including keynotes through a Virtual Package: ET4OL Virtual Recording Package or call 781-583-7561. The Virtual Recording Package is available for both individuals and institutions. Next year's symposium will be held at the Sheraton Dallas from April 22-24, 2015. Mark your calendars now! You can sign up for conference updates at You can watch the keynote address here-- Keynote Address - Jim Groom-A Domain of One's Own. MERLOT's own David Wicks (Seattle Pacific University) chaired the conference.

The MERLOT Leadership Team met prior to the conference on Tuesday, April 9th. Gerry highlighted MERLOT communications, including Leadership Council meetings, editors' monthly calls, From the Vineyard, and The Grapevine, as well as social media. We discussed growing MERLOT's peer reviews in both large and small groups. Barb Sperling shared new elements of the MERLOT site, including Member Profile and Materials pages and new Wizards. You can expect to see those by June. Rick Lumadue and Cathy Swift shared the new asynchronous GRAPE Camp that they developed. Small groups then discussed Affordable Learning Solutions, Adoption Strategies for OER and MERLOT, Using Peer Review, and MERLOT's Technology Services. You should be seeing some of the results of these discussions in the near future.


MERLOT Awards 2014

Our annual awards ceremony was held on April 10 in the conference ballroom. Awards were presented for Learning Materials, Service, and Use of MERLOT.

MERLOT Awards: Exemplary Learning Materials

The MERLOT Awards program recognizes and promotes outstanding online resources designed to enhance teaching and learning and to honor the authors and developers of these resources for their contributions to the academic community.  Awards for Exemplary Online Materials are presented to authors of peer-reviewed learning resources. The awards honor the authors and developers of these resources for their contributions to the academic community by conferring theMERLOT Classics Awards. Each Editorial Board selects an outstanding peer-reviewed learning material in its discipline to receive the Classics award according to program criteria.

Authors wishing to have their learning material considered to receive the Classics Award must first contribute the material to MERLOT. Once the material is submitted it needs to be peer-reviewed by the Editorial Board, which may take several months. Materials are only considered for the award when they are catalogued in the disciplines for which there are Editorial Boards. Editorial Boards make their decisions regarding the Classics Award in November for award at the Emerging Technologies Conference the following Spring.


Classic Award Winners – 2014


Virtual Cell Animations -  Drs. Phillip McClean, Alan R. White, Katie Reindl, and Ms. Cristina Johnson, North Dakota State UniversityGerry Hanley (left and Michael Plotking (Biology Co-Editor) present the Classics Award in Biology to Alan White.

This supersite contains 20 different animations—each starting with a first look overview and a more in-depth view using static images.  Each also has a flash animation with a voice-over narration.  By walking through the still images and movies, viewers can easily choose between either studying a specific step from one of the processes or taking a more immersive look at the process in its entirety




Accounting 211 – Mary Ann Mengel, Dr. Lolita Paff, Amy Roche, Penn State University, Berks

Editor, Cathy Swift with Mary Ann Mengel, Lolita Paff, and Amy Roche.

This interactive tutorial is an excellent example of a collaborative project that results in an interactive tutorial and practice exercises.  As part of a hybrid course redesign, the staff of the Center for Learning and Teaching met with an accounting professor to identify problematic accounting concepts and to develop an appropriate instructional approach.  Using a fictitious company, Cup of Joe-Pa, the purchase of supplies is explained and the resulting entry recorded.  There are touches of humor and an available script for the hearing impaired.

Health Sciences

Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases – National Institute of Health Office of Science Education

This site explores factors associated with disease emergence and re-emergence and considers the human activities that can increase or decrease the likelihood of outbreaks of infectious diseases.  Students play the role of epidemiologists looking for clues to solve the case of a mystery disease, watch simulations of herd immunity and the impact of vaccination program, and assign limited funds to three proposals to address a major infectious disease.


The Big History Project – David Christian, Macquarie University; Andy Cook, The Big History Project

This multidisciplinary online course covers the major events in the development and history of the earth in one unified story covering 13.7 billion years.  The Big History Project is a joint effort among teachers, scholars, scientists, and their supporters, bringing the ideas of big history to life, providing students of all ages with unique views into different fields of knowledge.



Exploring J. S. Bach Mass in B Minor – Tim Smith, Northern Arizona University and Helmuth Rilling, Conductor, The Bach-Collegium Stuttgart

Gerry Hanley with Tim Smith, Music Classics Award Winner.This site provides a photographic facsimile of the manuscript of the Mass in B Minor by J. S. Bach as well as a recording of the work by Helmuth Rilling.  In addition to the score and recording, the site provides the text and translation, 200 “cuepoints” in the score which link to additional information and media on Bach, the Mass in B Minor, performance practice of the era, and the form of the Mass as well as other historical information.




Waves:  An Interactive Tutorial – Kyle Forinash, Indiana University Southeast

Gerry Hanley with Kyle Forinash (Physics Winner) and Bruce Mason, Physics Editor.

This is an online interactive tutorial with 32 short modules, each built around a Java simulation.  The modules use questions and student-centered activities to challenge the user to interact with the simulations and explore the physics.  The coverage is extensive, including different types of mechanical waves and light and many of the physical properties that students find the most difficult to grasp.  The use of multimedia is simple, but instructive, providing immediate feedback.


The Psych Files – Michael Britt, Marist CollegeGerry Hanley with Psychology Editor Catherine Honig and Michael Britt, Classics Award winner in Psychology.

The website contains a variety of podcasts and videos exploring specific topics in psychology, using a conversational, interactive tone.  There are over 200 different audio or video presentations covering all major divisions of psychology.  The presentations are not geared as lectures, but rather as interesting informational overviews and/or tips to make learning psychology easier.  The Psychology Editorial Board members use this exceptional resource in their classes, providing current content in a contemporary, media-driven format that students enjoy and that they learn from.


Teacher Education

Blendspace – Amy Lin, Blendspace

Blendspace is an online presentation tool that allows users to collect various types of media from across the web and present the resources as an interactive grid or playable slideshow.  Original content can be blended with videos, images, simulations, and full webpages.  Each resource can be annotated with text, or in the Pro version, with audio narration.  The Board reported, “There are very few tools that we come across that can be used in classrooms of all disciplines and levels without customization…this tool stands apart from the rest.  It is ready to be used by instructors and more powerfully, by students.”

World Languages

Spanish Proficiency Exercises – Orlando R. Kelm, The University of Texas at Austin

Orlando Helm with Gerry Hanley and World Language Editor, Laura Franklin.

Spanish Proficiency Exercises is a compilation of brief video clips in which native speaker of Spanish from various locations throughout Latin America and Spain demonstrate various language tasks.  The objective of the exercises is to provide students of Spanish with the necessary tools to be able to talk about the same topics in Spanish.  The Board noted, “World Languages always strives to find the best in the wide variety of learning materials that we have in our collection.  This recipient has been a generous contributor to technology-enhanced language learning materials available free on the web.  While we recognize his work in Spanish Proficiency Exercises, he has done great work in Portuguese as well and is deserving of recognition for his OER contributions to our field.”


MERLOT Awards: Application of MERLOT – Institutional Stewardship

Application of MERLOT award recognizes those who demonstrate leadership in the use and application of MERLOT.  Institutional Stewardship award recognizes efforts to promote MERLOT at an institutional level. MERLOT seeks to identify models that can be used to sustain support for MERLOT and that demonstrate the value of MERLOT. The recipient of the award (individual or group) will have exhibited an outstanding example of stewardship in spreading the use of MERLOT throughout the campus or system.

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Two winners were selected this year – MEITAL/MAOR(accepting the award, Eli Shmueli) the consortium of Israeli universities that partner with MERLOT and INACAP,MERLOT’s first formal international partner, which integrates MERLOT’s services into 28 campuses in Chile.

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MERLOT Awards: Application of MERLOT – Innovative Use of MERLOT

The Innovative Use of MERLOT award is given to an individual, department, or program that demonstrates novel, comprehensive, or creative usage and/or application of MERLOT materials and services. Nominees must provide evidence of an impact on students that can be demonstrated through qualitative or quantitative research or anecdotal evidence. The impact on learning is valued above the impact on student interest. The MERLOT Editors’ Council will determine the winner(s) of the award.

Gerry Hanley with Rick Lumadue (Texas A & M Commerce) who won the Innovative Use of MERLOT award.Rick Lumadue, Texas A&M-Commerce. Rick has integrated MERLOT GRAPE Camp Peer Review training into the Global eLearning Program for all students to complete and receive certification as a MERLOT Peer Reviewer. Also, student developed web pages using MERLOT Content Builder have provided a great resource to help measure the programmatic student learning outcomes of the MS Global eLearning Program.

In addition, Rick has developed over 200 MERLOT web pages and 20 MERLOT websites. Many of the websites are fully developed online courses that provide free open education resources, including embedded presentations, files, and companion iBooks, which he has co-authored. Rick has also made use of affordable learning solutions materials by assembling relevant, low cost e-Textbooks using McGraw-Hill Create.  Rick has collaborated with Cathy Swift to develop an updated version of asynchronous GRAPE Camp. 


MERLOT Awards: Service to MERLOT – Distinguished Service

MERLOT recognizes the outstanding contributions that individuals make to the growth and development of MERLOT. This leadership is rewarded in several ways.

The Distinguished Service award is reserved as MERLOT’s highest honor. The recipient of this award demonstrates the vision that brings MERLOT members together to create the MERLOT Community and our services. Recipients of this award have exemplified, through their vision and leadership, the highest values MERLOT holds. The recipients of this award are selected by the previous five winners. This year's winner is Cathy Swift.

Cathy Swift, winner of the Distinguished Service Award with Gerry Hanley.

2014 – Cathy Swift – Editor of the MERLOT Business Editorial Board and retired Director of Academic Partner Services for MERLOT

Cathy has been a member of MERLOT since 1999.  She retired from teaching at Georgia Southern University in 2006 and became a member of the MERLOT Management Team.  She developed GRAPE Camp for training peer reviewers and continues to facilitate it.


Peer Reviewer Extraordinaire

Peer Reviewer Extraordinaire award recognizes individuals as Peer Reviewers Extraordinaire for completing fifteen or more Peer Reviews during a year. This year's recipients included:

Laura Franklin, Jim Bidlack, Cathy Swift, Angela Gunder, Michael Plotkin, Catherine Honig, Jane Moore, Loretta Driskell, Ray Purdom and Gerry Hanley

Name Editorial Board Institution
Jim Bidlack Biology University of Central Oklahoma
Scott Cooper Biology University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse
Juville Dario-Becker Biology Central VA. Community College
Michael Plotkin Biology Mt. San Jacinto College
Cathy Swift Business Retired
Riz Klausmeyer Chemistry Baylor University
Renee Aitken Faculty Devel. Northcentral University
Jane Harris Faculty Devel. University of North Carolina-Greensboro
John Prusch Faculty Devel. Excelsior College
Ray Purdom Faculty Devel. Retired
Beverley Ferrell Health Sciences Consultant
Carol Edwards Info. Technology Kaplan University
Irene Knokh Info. Technology University of Michigan
Julie Evey Psychology University of Southern Indiana
Catherine Honig Psychology National Louis University
Bruce Bennett Teacher Education Grand Canyon University
Doris Dickerson Teacher Education Shorter University
Loretta Driskell Teacher Education Colorado Mountain College
Angela Gunder Teacher Education Northern VA. Community College
Elaine Lawrence Teacher Education SUNY-Oneonta
Jane Moore Teacher Education MERLOT
David Wicks Teacher Education Seattle Pacific University
Esperanza Zenon Teacher Education River Parishes Community College
Laura Franklin World Languages Northern VA. Community College



MERLOT House Cup Award

Jim Bidlack, Michael Plotkin and Gerry Hanley at the MERLOT Awards.

The Biology Editorial Board was the winner of the 2014 House Cup, given each year to the most productive Editorial Board. The Biology Board completed 176 individual reviews, 82 composite reviews, 545 editors' reviews, added 474 materials to MERLOT, and made 20 member comments!

The top five boards for productivity in 2014 included Biology, Business, Health Sciences, Mathematics, and Teacher Education.


MERLOT, Learningpod, and Open Textbooks

MERLOT has helped professors find and review open textbooks for years. Now, through a partnership with Learningpod, they’re helping professors do more with these texts.

Learningpod is an online question bank with more than 48,000 questions on a variety of topics and exams. These questions align directly to some of the most popular open textbooks on MERLOT, in particular the OpenStax College textbooks.

Learningpod allows professors to assign question sets and track student progress for free. Professors can also customize assignments to match their individual courses. This supplementary practice engages students and provides a missing piece in open textbook adoption. 

To get started using Learningpod with your open textbook, find your topic on Want it done for you? Learningpod is offering personal support to professors using MERLOT. Fill out this form and they’ll assemble a custom workbook just for you.


Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT) - Current issue available

 Vol. 10, No. 1 of the MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT at has been published and is available online. The contents of the issue are listed below. In this issue you will find 12 research papers and case studies.

RSS JOLT now has an RSS feed so that one can be updated easily when an issue is published.  The RSS feed can be found at the bottom of the homepage.

Did you know that you can also search JOLT when you are doing research having to do with teaching and learning?  Just enter your search term in the box, and find JOLT articles that are related to your search.

JOLT also welcomes new reviewers. For more information about the journal and to view the Guideline for Authors, visit


Peer Reviewer Incentives

Amazon gift card

In an effort to build the collection of Peer Reviews in MERLOT, we have offered a $50 gift card to a reviewer each month during the year, beginning in March.

Congratulations to Esperanza Zenon, River Parishes Community College of the Teacher Education Board who was the winner of the March incentive. The winner of the April incentive was Sandra Ridings of the Health Sciences Editorial Board. Sandra is an educator at Flinders Medical Centre in Henley Beach, South Australia. Both recipients chose Amazon gift cards. Each month a name will be drawn from the reviewers who complete individual and composite reviews that month.


GRAPE Camp 2014

To become a Peer Reviewer for MERLOT, individuals must be an instructor in an institution of higher education and have:

  • Expertise in the scholarship of their field
  • Excellence in teaching
  • Experience in using technology in teaching and learning, and
  • Connections to professional organizations in their discipline.

MERLOT has developed training for Peer Reviewers to ensure that they become familiar with MERLOT's Peer Review processes. MERLOT Management conducts GRAPE Camp (Getting Reviewers Accustomed to the Process of Evaluation) to train Peer Reviewers on a regular basis. GRAPE Camp consists of a series of three one-hour workshops online, one per week. In these webinars, participants will:

  • Develop an understanding of MERLOT
  • Learn how MERLOT evaluates Learning Materials
  • Conduct a group review
  • Complete an Individual Review
  • Learn how to use the Workspace tool, and
  • Introduce participants to the Editorial Board of their disciplines.

The webinars include people from a variety of disciplines and is archived so participants can review the material as needed. For information about GRAPE Camp, contact Cathy Swift.

GRAPE Camps are scheduled for 2014 in:

  • June, Tuesdays (3, 10, 17) at 11 AM Eastern/8 AM Pacific
  • July, Wednesdays (2, 9, 16) at 11 AM Eastern/8 AM Pacific
  • August, Tuesdays (5, 12, 19) at 5 PM Eastern/2 PM Pacific

Winter GRAPE Camp graduates include:

Name Board
Anabela Maia Biology Eastern Illinois University
Hwangli Lu Health Sciences Ashford University
Kimberly Koonce Business Plant World, Inc.
Andre Padillo Oviedo Mathematics The University of Texas Pan American
Dawn Kerr Health Sciences Texas A&M-Commerce
Michael Williams Health Sciences SUNY Downstate at Bay Ridge
Camille Freeman Biology Maryland University of Integrative Health
Buddy Ethridge Faculty Development Louisiana State University
Fang-Yu Chow Health Sciences San Jose State University
Danielle Solano Chemistry California State University Bakersfield


To register for any one of these sessions or to sign up for asynchronous sessions, please complete the short form questionnaire.

If these times don't work for you, you can also participate asynchronously by completing the questionnaire above and indicating that you want to do it asynchronously.  You can also participate in the discussions about GRAPE Camp in MERLOT Voices.




line features

Update on the MERLOT Community

Affordable Learning Solutions at Fresno State

Arun Nambiar, Editor of Engineering

Arun Nambiar, Editor of the Engineering Editorial Board reports that he has been using affordable learning solutions at Fresno State.

Dr. Nambiar is one of nine faculty members who have eliminated the use of textbooks in their classes. He adopted materials from MERLOT, saving students over $325 in the three courses he teaches.




Indiana State University Scott College of Business Faculty Recognition AwardSusan Moncada

Susan Moncada, Associate Editor for Business, was awarded the prestigious award. At the awards ceremony, her contributions to MERLOT as Associate Editor for Accounting were acknowledged along with assessment endeavors for the college.







tech update

What's new in MERLOT?

By now we hope that you’ve had a chance to look at and use MERLOT II.  We thought we’d talk about some of the features and functionality you may not know about.  To start, from any page in MERLOT II,  you can see a HELP link.  This is an exciting new feature that didn’t exist in MERLOT previously.  From any page in MERLOT, if you click the help link, you will get context sensitive help.  There is also information about MERLOT, MERLOT technologies, Partnerships and benefits or even our Peer Review process.  All of this can be accessed separately at  If you can’t find what you are looking for, simply search the help section to find specific information.

merlot help home page

There is also an entire section about Create materials with the MERLOT Content Builder at, News and Information at

If you want information about  completing your profile or to better understand how to connect with other MERLOT members, all that can be found in MERLOT help too!  There is so much information in MERLOT and help to get you started and keep you going.  And there is always the MERLOT Webmaster to ask questions if you can’t find what you need.  Just email 


MERLOT Survey - Tell us what you think!

survey on home pageSince the release of MERLOT II back in October, we have had many positive comments about the new design. If you have a few minutes, we'd appreciate hearing what you think of the website. From the MERLOT home page, click the SURVEY tab on the right side of the page to complete the survey.

Social Networking and MERLOT

MERLOT has a Facebook pagefacebook and we'd love for you to "Like Us."
You can also follow our Tweets on Twitter at http// twitter

MERLOT also has a Linkedin account. Make sure you join us and network with other MERLOT Users.



Upcoming Events

Sloan-C International ALN Conference

Driving Innovation with Online Learning
October 29-31, 2014

The 20th anniversary edition of the Annual International Conference on Online Learning will be held this year at the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The conference tracks include:

  • Faculty and professional development and support
  • Institutional strategies and innovations
  • Leadership, values, and society
  • Learning effectiveness
  • Open, global, mobile learning
  • Student services and learner support
  • Technology and emerging learning environments.

Quality Matters Conference

Save the Date! September 29 - October 1, 2014

The Quality Matters annual conference will be held September 29 - October 1, 2014 at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace. Monday, September 29 is a day of pre-conference workshops. There are several new workshop offerings this year. The conference begins with a welcome reception. Conference sessions begin 8 a.m. Tuesday, September 30 and conclude Wednesday, October 1.



The Numbers

Who Uses MERLOT?

Here is what is in the MERLOT Collection as of May 15, 2014:
Learning Materials – 44,953
MERLOT Members – 122,720
Materials with an Editor Review – 18,050
Member Comments – 11,926
Personal Collections – 19,946
Learning Exercises – 1,459

How many searches were done using our web services in the first quarter of 2014?
- Basic Searches: 39,745
- Advanced Searches: 27,689

How many people visited MERLOT in in the first quarter of 2014?  152,941

How many page views were viewed in in the first quarter of 2014? 1,309,763

The top 10 countries that visited MERLOT in 2013:
1. United States
2. Canada
3. United Kingdom
4. India
5. Phillippines
6. Israel
7. Australia
8. Chile
9. Spain
10. Brazil



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