Newswise — Some things get better with age and that's the case for the California State University's Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) program. For the past 20 years, MERLOT has led the way in providing an online library of free and open educational resources (OER) for teaching and learning by higher education faculty and students.

In an ongoing effort to provide free and easy access to peer-reviewed educational resources and to connect colleagues and experts working in the same disciplines, MERLOT added new features and designs to the award-winning website: Smart Search and Content Builder.

MERLOT's new Smart Search extends access to learning materials well beyond even MERLOT's already extensive collection of resources. Now users can search more than a dozen digital libraries to find OER's faster than ever before. Smart Search uses a proprietary MERLOT user profile design to also find the newest and most popular learning materials available on the web. The content can then be contributed to the MERLOT collection for subsequent curation and peer review by MERLOT's 26 editorial boards. The editorial boards and discipline portals cover topics such as: teacher education, information technology, business, criminal justice and biology—just to name a few.

The second change is a newly redesigned Content Builder. This is a free webpage and website development tool that is integrated into MERLOT for its logged-in members (it is free to be a member of MERLOT)​. With an even more intuitive user experience, the redesigned tool has already been used by 21,000 MERLOT members to create over 100,000 webpages and websites. Many of these can already be found in the MERLOT collection. CSU faculty have used MERLOT's Content Builder to create teaching ePortfolios explaining how they redesigned their courses with technology to improve student success.

"The CSU takes great pride in the continuous improvement of MERLOT's capabilities to support the success of faculty, students, and staff by delivering high quality and free teaching and learning materials to all," said Gerry Hanley, assistant vice chancellor of academic technology services and the executive director of MERLOT. "MERLOT has grown from a small website with a big idea 20 years ago to a major international player on the rapidly growing OER and Educational Technology stage with approximately 80,000 digital learning materials including open textbooks, online courses, tutorials, virtual labs, and reference materials and a community of over 146,000 members."

In the past 10 years, MERLOT has served over 6.5 million people from 241 countries and territories. Over 500 campuses are part of MERLOT's higher education consortium. MERLOT's services have been adopted by the University System of Georgia, the State University of New York system, the Louisiana Board of Regents, and the Southern University System to advance their own OER initiatives.

MERLOT's other features including ISBN search, Course ePortfolios and Community Portals are excellent resources for faculty, teachers and teacher credential candidates. As part of the CSUs commitment to an affordable high-quality education, many faculty have adopted the use of free and open etextbooks to ensure all students have immediate access to their course materials.

To find out more about MERLOT's curated collection of free and open online teaching, learning and faculty development services visit: