Initiative to Boost Use of Online Learning

(February 7, 2003) -- For the first time, three major players in the field of online learning are jointly launching an initiative to speed the creation and use of on-line teaching tools in higher education. The California State University Center for Distributed Learning (CSU CDL), the New Media Consortium (NMC), and MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) will work together to increase the number of high quality, peer-reviewed "learning objects" (or modules) and their effective use by college and university faculty.

(Unlike a complete course, a learning object is a stand-alone, electronically-based presentation, which can be used within a course to further student understanding. It could be, for example, an interactive chemistry experiment, where students can change variables to arrive at different results, without their need to use a physical lab. Faculty can tap the bank of objects to construct enriched coursework for their students.)

MERLOT ( is an international cooperative that collects and makes freely available high-quality online resources to improve learning and teaching within higher education. The NMC is a non-profit organization that connects leaders in colleges, universities, museums and advanced technology companies working to define and explore new ways of teaching, learning, and creative expression. The CSU CDL develops and disseminates tools, best practices, and strategies that effectively employ the Web and related technologies to improve learning and teaching within the CSU community. The three have joined in this collaborative initiative in recognition of their shared mission, values and constituents.

"The key to this alliance is that we share a common value system built on ideals like community, collaboration, learning and innovation," noted Larry Johnson, president and CEO of the NMC. "Given the skills, commitment, and dedication of the people in each of these organizations, this alliance will serve as a powerful catalyst for the development of reusable, interoperable learning objects and the expansion of key learning object collections like MERLOT."

The NMC and the CSU CDL will work to produce new, instructionally sound, learning modules. MERLOT and NMC will work to familiarize faculty with them and spread their use. "All three organizations will collaborate to provide academic technology staff, faculty, students, and administrators with opportunities to learn how to better use them," states Gerry Hanley, Executive Director of MERLOT.

The three organizations will seek to link authors and users within higher education by

  • Providing authors of learning objects with online library and other resources for sharing their products as well as for receiving feedback to help improve the quality and efficiency of their designs;
  • Expanding the MERLOT shared collections within disciplines so users will have easy access to a range of high quality learning objects;
  • Providing each other's members with conference and activity discounts;
  • Supporting the development of learning objects built on sound instructional design, reusable design principles and functions, and embedded in clear guidelines for applying learning objects to teaching and learning.

Lou Zweier, Director of the CSU CDL notes, "Faculty and staff who are on the cutting edge of applying new technologies to the teaching and learning process need support for their efforts. The members of these three organizations and the cooperative programs we develop will be a powerful resource for supporting each other."

For more information contact:

Dr. Larry Johnson, President & CEO, The New Media Consortium, 512.445.4200,

Dr. Gerard L. Hanley, Executive Director, MERLOT 562.951.4259,

Lou Zweier, Director, CSU Center for Distributed Learning, 707.664.4337,

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Last Updated: 7 February 2003

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