Psychology Teaching Resources in the MERLOT Digital Learning Objects Catalog

Article excerpt

MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) is a free multidisciplinary catalog of digital learning materials, peer reviews, learning assignments, and member comments designed to facilitate faculty instruction. The catalog's goal is to expand the quantity and quality of peer-reviewed online teaching materials. We present an overview of MERLOT, describe the peer reviewing of materials, and highlight the psychology resources found in its catalog. The MERLOT Psychology Portal provides instructors with a wide range of teaching materials, resources, and tools as well as guidelines for the creation of digital learning objects. MERLOT offers an organized, streamlined, and timesaving way to find good digital materials for teaching psychology.

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Many instructors in psychology are developing and using digital and online supplements for their courses (Brink, 2001; Buzhardt & Semb, 2005). As in other disciplines, psychologists may have trouble finding or developing high-quality and relevant Web-based teaching materials that are appropriate for their students. For many instructors, the time and effort required to search for and sift through possible teaching resources on the Internet is daunting. Developing new learning objects can be very time-consuming, especially if one is not familiar with existing and emerging instructional technologies. Much time and effort could be saved by instructors if there were places they could go where someone has already done the work for them. Recently, several places have appeared. A leading example of such digital learning object repositories is MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching; www.merlot.org).

MERLOT is a continually growing free catalog of digital learning materials, peer reviews, learning assignments, and member comments designed to help faculty enhance their instruction (for more specifics about the general nature and structure of MERLOT, see Malloy & Hanley, 2001, as well as the MERLOT Web page). Its mission is to expand the quantity and quality of peer-reviewed online materials that faculty can incorporate into their courses. The catalog is organized into discipline-specific communities, including psychology. In this article, we present a brief overview of MERLOT, describe the peer reviewing of materials, and highlight the psychology resources found in the MERLOT catalog. We believe that by highlighting the structure, organization, and contents of MERLOT, we can provide psychology instructors with useful information and ideas for teaching as well as for the creation of digital learning objects.

The MERLOT Catalog and Member Services

Since its inception in 1997, MERLOT has enabled the formation of discipline communities engaged in building shared knowledge bases of reusable digital learning materials. At the time of this writing, there were over 61,000 members (approximately three-quarters of whom are faculty or students) and over 20,000 learning materials in MERLOT. Instead of storing the actual material, MERLOT stores information about it; the URL for its actual location; and peer reviews, member comments, and assignments pertaining to that material. MERLOT is not responsible for the content or upkeep of the learning material in the catalog. Whereas anyone can access the materials, members who join MERLOT (for free) can create a personal profile, contribute learning materials for evaluation, make comments on the materials, submit assignments, and create personal collections. Nonmembers may access the catalog, but they cannot participate in these other options without joining.

When people join MERLOT, they complete a personal profile. This option includes contact information, membership history, and skills and interests. In addition, MERLOT automatically tracks each member's activities and contributions (i.e., authored materials, submitted materials, assignments created, and member comments made). …