MERLOT Adds New OER Search Feature

MERLOT is a well-known repository of openly accessible learning content produced and shared by higher education faculty. With its thousands of learning objects, MERLOT is considered a reliable source of quality Open Educational Resources (OER).

Faculty are sometimes challenged to find OER that fits their course. To enhance their ability to locate OER, MERLOT has developed a new feature called “Smart Search”. It extends access to online learning materials well beyond MERLOT’s curated and peer reviewed collection.  Smart Search helps to answer the pervasive and nagging question, “Where can I find OERs?”

Smart Search searches the World Wide Web specifically for the kinds of learning materials typically found in MERLOT. It uses a proprietary MERLOT user profile design to find the newest and most popular learning materials on the web. While these web items are not reviewed or curated as is the MERLOT resources, searches can recommend materials they find for future review.

Smart Search is easy to use. From the MERLOT home page go to the search feature:

screenshot of merlot search box

Start with the MERLOT search utility







Then MERLOT will indicate you have a choice of three options for finding content:

screenshot of the merlot search options

MERLOT prompts for one of three different searches






Choosing the Web search option will result in up to 100 websites with potential OER content on the search topic:

screenshot of MERLOT search results screen

MERLOT search results display up to 100 web sites






As part of Temple University Libraries celebration of Open Education Week, we encourage all instructors to visit MERLOT and consider ways in which OER could be used to offer students affordable learning material. For more information on locating OER resources, using existing library content or other resources as affordable learning materials contact Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian.

New Study Points to Learning Effectiveness of Open Textbooks

There are many good reasons to use open textbooks instead of costly commercially published textbooks. The obvious one is that it saves students a great deal of money. Faculty support that but may be hesitant to adopt an open textbook for their course over concerns of quality and impact on learning.

A new study by three researchers, one of whom is David Wiley, the prominent advocate for open education, may help to convince faculty that there is value in adopting open textbooks – and not just because of the savings for students. Open textbooks, in this study, proved beneficial to student learning.

A multi-institutional study of the impact of open textbook adoption on the learning outcomes of postsecondary students” is by far the largest study of its kind conducted to date—nearly 5000 postsecondary students using OER and over 11,000 control students using commercial textbooks, distributed among ten institutions across the United States, enrolled in 15 different undergraduate courses. So what did the researchers learn?

In three key measures of student success—course completion, final grade of C- or higher, course grade– students whose faculty chose OER generally performed as well or better than students whose faculty assigned commercial textbooks. The article does discuss the challenge of identifying and using appropriate measures of student learning, but the findings should encourage faculty who may be averse to open educational resources.

The findings support the experience of Temple University faculty that have participated in our local Alternate Textbook Project. Their evaluations of student outcomes often confirm that replacing the commercial textbook with alternate learning content (including licensed library content in many cases) leads to improved student engagement with learning materials which results in better academic performance. If you are interested in additional information about open textbooks, OER or our Alternate Textbook Project contact Steven Bell, Association University Librarian(bells at

Submit a Proposal For the Alternate Textbook Project

Do you want to save students money by not requiring them to buy a textbook?

Do you want to improve student learning?

Do you want to offer students access to more digital learning content?

If you answered “yes” to the above then please consider applying for one of ten Alternate Textbook Project awards. Faculty members whose proposals are accepted receive an award of $1,000 to subsidize the preparation of their alternate textbook.

Both full and part-time faculty are eligible. Proposals must address how the current commercial textbook will be replaced with learning material that is available at no cost to the students. This could include open educational resources (OER) and licensed library materials, such as scholarly articles, e-book chapters and educational video.

To date 37 Temple faculty have received alternate textbook awards and have so far saved Temple students over $300,000 in textbook costs.

Please consider applying for an alternate textbook award.

Proposals are now being accepted through the deadline of April 30, 2015. Awards will be announced by May 15, 2015.

For more information and the proposal submission form go to the Alternate Textbook Project information guide.

The Alternate Textbook Project is sponsored by the TLTR2 and Temple University Libraries.

How We Saved Temple Students $300,000 – An Open Education Week Story

Open Education Week is coordinated by the The Open Education Consortium, an association of hundreds of institutions and organizations around the world that are committed to the ideals of open education. Universities, colleges, schools and organizations from all over the world have come together to showcase what they’re doing to make education more open, free, and available to everyone.

Open Education Week is an effort to bring more attention to open courses, such as those offered by Coursera and EdX, and open educational resources (OER). OER is more than just learning content that is freely available on the web, although much of it is freely available, such as OpenStax textbooks. But to be truly “open” these resources should meet the criteria of the “5 Rs”.  Those Rs stand for:

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

OER therefore is not only free, but allows other scholars to make all types of uses of that content in repurposing it for learning and further sharing.

Temple University Libraries supports OER by encouraging faculty to stop using costly commercial textbooks and instead use open educational content supplemented by licensed library content (the latter which is free to Temple students and faculty but not “open”). One vehicle to support that activity is the Alternate Textbook Project. To date it has enabled 35 faculty to stop using a commercial textbook. Since the launch of this project in 2011, Temple students have saved over $300,000 in textbook costs.

Take some time during Open Education Week to learn more about how faculty members are sharing their educational materials through open repositories such as MERLOT, a website where faculty can contribute and find peer-reviewed learning content, such as presentations, tutorials and quizzes. Many faculty use MERLOT resources in their courses to help support an alternate textbook. Complete open textbooks may be found by using the Open Textbook Library, a searchable catalog of open texbooks. If you have any questions about the Alternate Textbook Project or OER, contact Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian at bells @


Complete Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open educational resources (OER) are freely available learning materials that are becoming more popular as a strategy for providing students with an alternative to costly textbooks. Knowing that their students are already challenged by the cost of higher education, many faculty are looking for ways to help students save money. Adopting openly accessible textbooks and other open learning content is one way to do that. But it also has other advantages, the primary one being that it can enhance student success by making learning materials affordable. Research has shown that many students don’t buy an expensive textbook or they try to share it with other students. That detracts from learning.

How do you get started with OER if you are interested in learning more about the resources and how to integrate them into a learning environment? Campus Technology recently published a good introduction to OER in the August 2014 issue. “Complete Guide to OER” starts with a definition: “Teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain…and includes full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, texts, software, and other materials used to access knowledge.”

It then provides a good overview that includes four myths about OER, six tips for using OER, six arguments for OER, 18 sites for finding OER, ideas for spreading the word about OER on campus, and some information about OER formats.

The other way to learn more about OER and how it’s being used at Temple University is to explore our Alternate Textbook Project website. The Temple University Libraries has offered support for faculty to replace their traditional commercial textbook with other materials, including OER. There are examples of projects and links to additional resources. If you would like to learn more about the Alternate Textbook Project or OER, please contact Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian.