Educating the Displaced Workforce with OER: SkillsCommons and MERLOT Helping Institutions Move Online

Concurrent Session 9
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Learn to customize your own OER Portal to help your institution move online as it delivers its workforce development programs.  Learn to use SkillsCommons, the US Department of Labor’s open library of workforce development OER and MERLOT to save time and money by adopting and customizing free quality online curriculum.   


Gerard L. Hanley Ph.D. is the Executive Director of MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching, and SkillsCommons ( for the California State University, the Director for the Center for Usability for Design and Accessibility and Professor of Psychology at California State University, Long Beach. At MERLOT and SkillsCommons, he directs the development and sustainability of the international consortium and technology strategy to provide open educational services to improve teaching and learning and continues to development the US Department of Labor's open repository of educational resources for workforce development. Gerry's previous positions include Assistance Vice Chancellor for Academic Technology Services at the CSU Office of the Chancellor, the Director of Faculty Development and Director of Strategy Planning at CSU, Long Beach.

Extended Abstract

The California State University - MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) built and has been operating the national open repository of open educational resources (OER) for workforce development produced by over 700 community colleges through the funding of about $2 billion in grants by the U.S. Department of Labor from the TAACCCT (Trade Adjustment Assistance for Community Colleges and Career Training) program.

SkillsCommons is the open online repository for the workforce OER and it has been open for use at for the last 5 years with over 60,000 downloads of OER per month.   Finding relevant OER for one’s workforce development program is necessary but not sufficient for the adoption of the OER as course materials.   SkillsCommons and MERLOT has leveraged existing tools, services, programs, and resources to move OER from being desired to being adopted by faculty in the teaching of their courses.  With COVID-19 pandemic and the institutional imperative to move instruction online, MERLOT and SkillsCommons created an OER portal designed to be rebranded and customized by institutions to help their plans and implementations for moving instruction online successfully.

Embedding SkillsCommons services into an institution’s initiatives and technology platforms is critical for successful, scalable, and sustained adoption of workforce OER.  SkillsCommons and MERLOT have eased this integration into institutional initiatives by creating a template OER Portal that has curated academic and workforce OER  and organized resources into a website that itself is an OER that can then be easily remixed, revised, reused, redistributed, and retained.   MERLOT Content Builder is the open application for creating these customized OER Portals and MERLOT provides free hosting of the portals as well.    As of early June 2020, fifteen (15) derivative institutional OER portals have be created by and for universities, technical colleges, high schools, and professional organizations (see for the collection of portals). 

The interactive workshop will demonstrate and guide conference participants in the use MERLOT Content Builder and  will enable participants to create their own rebranded OER portal for their institution during the workshop.  Participants will also learn to use the SkillsCommons and MERLOT free and open library collections by search/browsing by industry, by type of credential (associates degree, certificate, latticed/stacked credential, etc.), and by type of materials (e.g. online course module, fully online course, tutorials, simulations, etc.) so they can curate OER resources that will be especially useful for their institution.

Participant will “take away” a generic OER portal hosted by MERLOT that will have their institutional brand and some curated OER resources targeted to their institution’s priorities.