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Land of a Thousand Lesson Plans

by Evelyn Beck

“OF THE PEOPLE, by the people, for the people…” Those famous words from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address referred to the U.S. government. But they might also apply to MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and On-line Teaching), an invaluable—and free—resource of over 10,000 Web-based learning materials created and constantly expanded by faculty across the country.

“It’s a user-created digital library,” says executive director Gerry Hanley, who also serves as the senior director for academic technology in California State University’s Office of the Chancellor in Long Beach. “That’s different from having a few experts say what’s important to be in the library.”

Started in 1997 as way to help faculty members in California’s state university system—the largest in the U.S.—find, select and use academic technology in their teaching and learning, MERLOT became a cross-country consortium in 2000, when 20 institutions of higher education joined as partners. While full involvement in MERLOT requires paid institutional membership, most of those who use its resources either browse the site or sign up for free memberships.

On average, over 15,000 unique visitors use the site each month, and over 15,000 faculty, staff, students, and others had registered as members by July 2003.

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