By rule, I usually avoid use of the “R-word” (repository, too close to the “S-word”), but wanted to launch, here just a few notches into a new calendar, my pessimism on the aspirations of those creating these magical collections of “learning objects.” The folly is that educators will give up some time to share information about resources they have created or used. They pay lip service to the concept but the action is not there. A bigger folly is that they would have the gumption to complete a “meta-data” form on top of that.
I am more convinced is that the loop is far from closed as we lack anything that can easily build meaningful things from these R-places. We have piles of meta-data on top of objects… and that is about all.
But following the pessimism is maybe a small ray of sunshine (next post).
This is fueled largely by the lack of response (or glacial speed thereof) of contributions to our Maricopa Learning eXchange (MLX). Back in October I outlined a rather long list of the various efforts and strategies we have put in place to convince our folks to help build the MLX.
- Making the system friendly and easy to use– I have been able to convince some audiences that creating an MLX entry takes no more time or technical skill than composing a 3 paragraph email and maybe pasting in a URL or attaching a document. In my demos, I ask someone who has never been in the MLX to create and account and then walk them through creating their first item.
- Remind and remind often and Take it to the people. Just in the last 5 months, our MLX “PR” department has been active, with at least 4 conference presentations/posters, 4 college-based workshops, 3 group meetings, we have respectfully pummeled with light hearted system wide email messages, and mention MLX in just about every meeting. One more than one occaision I have been in meetings where one party talks about a desire for a better forum to share resources. At least a small improvement is that it is usually some of my colleagues who are quick to mention, “We already have that, it is the MLX.”
- Bribery and Competition. We are in the middle of our third Great MLX Package Race” where we track the contribututions between October 1 and March 31, and will award to the colleges that contribute the most items to the MLX, a choice of 25 copies of Adobe Acrobat or Premiere, or 5 copies of Macromedia Studio MX (we are able to purchase these at a discount from our New Media Consortiummembership). Now we had thought technology committees, deans, centers for teaching and learning, would jump at the possibility of getting software worth $3-10K. On top of that, with some begging and pleading to vendors, we have prizes for individual efforts of two copies of Macromedia Studio MX2004 and 2 of AnyStream Apreso. All someone has to do to scoop these up is to rummage around their computer, and find those powerpoints, the lesson activities, the URLs for their class web sites, etc and post them to the MLX. They already have the items!
- Build Value for Groups into the System We got into the realm of RSS and syndication first to use that technology to be able to “fracshise” out specific slices of MLX information so that colleges, individuals, departments could have a dynamic information feed into their web sites, and have a decent variety of different feeds currently available. We set up permanent URLs (and RSS) that display an individual’s contributions, their own personal MLX collection, suitable for use as a link from a home page or an email to their department chair. We set up special collections so projects could develop a specific tagged group of MLX items that would be accessible, and always up to date, from one URL (or RSS).
So we are still far from that tipping point for the MLX, and the huge pile of resources at MERLOT is looking like that distant crater rim as viewed by a piece of dust on Mars.
I know that it just takes more time, but in that waiting, I continue to see prolific wheel re-invention and squandering of our collective intellectual capital. So you can take that repository and…. well I will stop.