The Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (commonly known simply as MERLOT) has been a well-kept secret for 10 years.

In essence, it is a collection of educational materials, contributed and rated by author educators. The peer review ensures some degree of quality, which is lacking in many other online content sites. Much of the collection is freely available – without charge – to the general public, although some content is restricted to access by members or partners only.

Materials are grouped by category, and the site is searchable.

Discipline communities have also grown up within MERLOT as a whole, to help educators with instructional and professional development applicable to their unique needs.

While the idea of freely contributed and distributed learning modules is enticing, several difficulties exist with MERLOT. While materials are categorized and searchable, the process still can be cumbersome and time consuming if you are looking for a module on a specific concept. Even if you find one, you need to look through the whole thing to see if it will fit into your particular curriculum without raising issues or topics you are not ready to address.

The materials are also not sorted or categorized by appropriate age group. Many modules can be used for K-12 classes, although the site generally seems written to cater to the needs of higher education faculty.

Finally, many of the materials are web sites without any specific guidance for an instructor regarding what type of objectives the module was intended to meet or where it would fit into a curriculum.

All these problems aside, MERLOT is an excellent place to start looking for online support materials if your text book company does not already have a web site for that particular book. And, it may be a good place to connect with other educators or even an outlet for your own materials, if you think they would be helpful to other teachers or faculty members.