Merlin Science

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions


Who is the author/teacher and what are his credentials?

Dr Jamie Love is the "Merlin" behind Merlin Science. Over the years Jamie has taught a wide variety of science subjects (from astronomy to zoology) to a wide variety of students (from thirteen-year-olds to thirty-somethings).

In 1990 Jamie earned his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Louisiana State University Medical Center (New Orleans). His thesis topic was "Avian Repetitive DNA" - analyzing the molecular evolution of a variety of birds with a focus on endangered species of cranes. He then moved to Scotland, a part of The United Kingdom. (The best part! )
The UK is home to the oldest, biggest and most distinguished distance-learning university in the world - The Open University. Jamie spent several years studying its methods while working towards his diploma in Information Technology through The Open University. He also earned an MBA from Heriot-Watt University in 1996, taught entirely by distance learning. Jamie knows first hand the difficulties one encounters studying alone and what is needed to teach in a self-learning environment.
In 1997 he was hired by the Department of Biological Sciences at Napier University, Edinburgh to edit and coordinate its distance learning programs on the Internet and via books. While working at Napier, Dr Love also taught Genetics and worked towards his Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching & Learning in Higher Education which was awarded in 2000. To fulfill part of that program's requirements, he produced "A Web-based Self-study Program Teaching Evolution".

Dr Love started Merlin Science in 1996 - teaching chemistry over the Internet. At first, Merlin Science tried to be a completely online "campus" but it became clear that students were wasting a lot of time online. Chatrooms and other forms of "synchronous communications" do not provide an opportunity for serious inspection of new material. They tied up the phone and often required additional software.
Jamie decided the best way to teach was to produce a "hypertextbook" - a series of webpages that could be read off the local hard drive using a web browser. Each hypertextbook is a self-paced, self-learning course specifically designed with the needs of distant learners in mind. The hypertextbooks were "beta tested" by hundreds of students and their feedback used to address problems, making the course a successful and enjoyable learning experience. (You might also be interested in reading how Merlin created his first course.)
Principles of Alchemy was his first self-paced, self-learning "hypertextbook". It was very well received and has become particularly popular among homeschoolers. Being an amateur astronomer, Jamie created an astronomy website that describes the night sky each month. Dr Love received many questions and comments from curious folks asking for more information. This rapidly developed into an entire course and became Merlin's second hypertextbook. Hobbyists and others have enjoyed Principles of Astronomy since it was first published in 1998. His PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology along with many years in researching and teaching Genetics, prove Jamie is well qualified to produce Principles of Genetics, his latest and most advanced course.

When he is relaxing, Jamie (aka Merlin) enjoys bird watching, camping, fossil collecting, and stargazing.

Return to top of FAQs.


Tell me more about the exams.

All courses include computerized, self-evaluation exams. Each exam is composed of 20 questions answered by multiple choice. Jamie wrote the three wrong choices to represent common errors or misunderstandings that the student might have. That makes the choices harder but it also means a wrong answer, with the feedback provided, is a learning experience. The only drawback of this immediate feedback is that the student is then free to change the answer! However, that is not the point. Jamie does not write exams that are meant to merely generate a score - they are meant to help the student. (Exams without feedback are easy for teachers to grade but provide no learning for students.) Dr Love believes that learning continues into the exams.

Here is an example of how the tests work. Note that these exams WILL NOT WORK if your JavaScript is OFF. Most people surf the web with JavaScript "on", that is, JavaScript "enabled". Only the most paranoid surfer refuses to run JavaScript. (JavaScript is NOT java or cookies.) Your browser's JavaScript must be enabled in order to give feedback and score the exams.

Click this button to see if your javascript is working.

If you did NOT get a "JavaScript box" pop up when you clicked that button, your JavaScript is not enabled and you cannot take the exams. How you turn JavaScript on depends on your browser but it is usually somewhere in the Preferences or Security settings. Poke around and enable your browser's JavaScript, test it on that button and then you will be ready for the exam.

Q 1 : To take the exams you must have ...
Microsoft's Internet Explorer installed.
an Apple.
the right answer.
javascript "enabled".

After completing the exam, the student submits it and the computer generates a "virtual page" that shows the grade and scores each answer as "Right" or "Wrong". The student can jot down which ones were wrong and close the virtual page. The student is given plenty of opportunities to correct errors and submit a "perfect" test. (You can take the exam as many times as you like!)
Of course, the student is on the "honor system". The exams are meant to encourage the student to continue while providing some incentive to achieve a perfect score.

Return to top of FAQs.


What about copyrighted materials, site licenses and stuff like that?
In 2017, Jamie formally retired from his post at the University of Edinburgh and the following year decided to give his courses away for all to enjoy. His hypertextbooks (courses) are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
    This means you are free to:
  • Share copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
  • Adapt remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.
    under the following terms:
  • Attribution You must give appropriate credit and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor (Dr Jamie Love) endorses you or your use.
  • ShareAlike If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.
Return to top of FAQs.


How to Get a copy of Principles of "Something"

Each course is free to download through its website.
Principles of Alchemy (Chemistry)
Principles of Astronomy
Principles of Genetics

Return to Merlin's Main Page