UNCG Campus Weekly

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Ray Purdom helps faculty around campus – and country – enhance student learning through MERLOT

“How can I most effectively teach university students?”

Faculty members across the country – as well as across campus – challenge themselves with this question. One resource at hand is an online collection of free teaching materials, MERLOT.

The Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) goal is “to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning by increasing the quantity and quality of peer reviewed online learning materials that can be easily incorporated into faculty designed courses.”

In addition to resources in the traditional disciplines, a Faculty Development editorial board, chaired by Dr. Ray Purdom, maintains over 1,300 items related to effective teaching and course design. “We’re like librarians,” he says, helping get the right resources to those who want them. Recently a Pedagogy Portal has been developed to provide in a user-friendly manner some of the best resources related to quality teaching strategies.

Among the issues professors are helped with:

  • How do I teach large lecture classes effectively?
  • How do I engage my students in problem-based learning?

The UNC system was a founding partner in launching MERLOT around 2000, he says. Cal State, where it is based, was one of the four university systems initially involved.

“I joined a year later,” he says, becoming the editor of their faculty development collection. He designed the classification scheme for the resources and submitted many of the materials which form the foundation of the collection. Pedagogy / Faculty Development is one of the more popular categories in MERLOT.

CW asked Purdom how he came to be interested in this topic. He told of his career so far: He was at a small college for 25 years. He taught physics for 18 years, then became dean of the college. He and the president worked together to obtain good workshop facilitators for a faculty development initiative, which is how he developed a particular interest in the field. After a time as interim-president, he had a career decision: to go back to teaching or to move further into faculty development. After a year with the Council of Independent Colleges in DC, he decided helping others become better teachers is what he wanted to do.

He has been at UNCG now 15 years. As director of the UNCG University Teaching and Learning Center, he helps faculty help students learn.

Dr. Susan Phillips (Communication Sciences and Disorders) is on the MERLOT editorial board for Communication, he notes, adding that Dr. Barbara Levin (Education) was extensively involved with MERLOT at one time as well.

All faculty are welcome to utilize the Merlot site. If you also wish to become a member, which is free, you may contribute materials to the site as well.

“So much good stuff is out there, I want faculty to know about it,” he explains.

For details, contact Ray Purdom.