My experience with OER began in the year 2000 when I became one of two co-editors of the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT). As a community college educator, I was very conscious of the need for affordable learning materials for my students, so the free and open promise of the resources contained in MERLOT was music to my ears. My role involved working with language experts from many universities and colleges across the country and in Canada on peer review standards that would assure faculty members could use MERLOT materials with confidence. Content quality, potential effectiveness for use in teaching and learning, and ease of use are still the three criteria that MERLOT uses to evaluate the very best in learning materials. I also completed the composite peer reviews that appear on the MERLOT website. Over the years, this work has provided enough quality material to enhance my French courses at all levels of instruction. Indeed, I could design whole language courses around these online materials.
In community college, as elsewhere, we see learners of all learning styles, proficiency levels, and achievement in language studies. The MERLOT language collection allows me to provide free access to high quality OER, from simple target language exercises to whole open courses and texts. There is video, audio, realia, and virtually every other kind of material that can be used in any classroom–face to face (f2f), hybrid, and online. My online students get to use the same excellent media that f2f students use, with the particular benefit of quality listening materials done by native speakers.
A project I am particularly proud of is the MERLOT Africa Network, which has made excellent use of OER for the benefit of the students on that continent. People all over the world are seeing the benefit of sharing knowledge–one of the greatest affordances of educational technologies and an appealing solution in difficult economic times. OER and technology tools make learning possible for the many as opposed to the few, and they open up avenues for collaboration around the globe. I am extremely happy to be a part of this energizing time for education. Discovering new materials for learning and the best way to use them keeps me professionally alive!
Find out more about MERLOT at http://www.merlot.org.