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Waiting on the MLX…

I’ve been holding back the itch to gripe about how hard it still is to get the people in our system to squeeze a few minutes out of their day to share ideas and materials that already exist in the Maricopa Learning eXchange (MLX) (past gripes 1, 2, 3 … There have been a few bright signs, contributions by new people, a group of Nutrition faculty that have added 28 new teaching resources in a month, an interest form another faculty that wants to post all of the Service Learning projects done at his college…. good signs.

On the flip side, our group of Blackboard technical leaders totally ignored my suggestion to share student/faculty support materials in the MLX. I even cobbled together a sample special collection of ones we already have. Silence. They continue to manage documents by sending e-mail attachments. I have decided to call this phenomena “Email Attachment Disorder”, where the symptoms include a complete reliance on pushing out fat attachments that have no capacity to be searched, archived, or readily recovered in any systematic way.

Then there is our incentive program, the MLX Great Package Race. We really thought that a chance for a college to earn Adobe and Macromedia software worth $3-10K would raise some level of interest. I changed just slightly our weighting formula to provide some reward to colleges where there are multiple contributers- still the current results show rather minimal participation rates, and a lot of the numbers are from a handful of dedicated individuals. And there are even individual incentives of copies of Macromedia Studio MX2004 that I really thought more than a few would be hungry for- after all this is software a faculty could use at home, or on their own computer at work… The thought is that most will wait until the March 31 deadline (ignoring my notes that inform them that individual scores are weighted by factors (number of visitors, comments, etc) that favor people who contribute early.

Lastly, I turn again to something so ironic it hurts. We have a system-wide “Innovation of the Year” program that is supposed to highlight innovation. However, I have made a case before that shows that it actually masks and hides more innovation than it reveals.

Once more, this program uses a 19th century paper process for applying to b e recognized for “innovation”:

1. Names, titles, college, telephone numbers and a photo of the individual or team members who created the Innovation of the Year.
 
2. Title and a description of the innovation not to exceed three pages (all supplementary materials will be considered as part of the three-page description limit). This is where the criteria are to be addressed. 

3. An executive summary of the innovation (not to exceed 50 words). This will be used in the Innovation Booklet. Please submit five printed copies of both the description and the executive summary as well as one copy of each on a PC disk in WORD format. 

This is correct. To submit something as innovative in the year 2004, you must personally hand in a floppy disk (what are those things??) down at the Marketing office.

Then during the interview process for the committee’s final selection, they let me know that there was a large number of projects submitted as innovation of the year for our district office site. But no one outside of this committee would ever know this existed because of this process. Now multiply this times our 10 colleges. Can you see the torrent of lost creative capital? This process highlights 10 but hides maybe 50, 100, 150 because no one but a small committee sees the applications. Isn’t that backwards? Self-defeating?

I have suggested with one simple process change they could reverse this trend. If they changed the application process, so that anyone submitting their project as an Innovation of the Year, write it up and post the same application form in the MLX, we would remove the need to drive down here and turn in a floppy disk AND we would be able to capture not only the selected finalists, but all of the programs submitted as innovations. Aren’t they all worthy to know about?

Last fall I barked this up and down to our Marketing to folks, to committees that supposedly are encouraging innovation, and then they rolled out the process for this year.. same old same old.

Even on the web site that archives the awards, there is no search ability, certainly no RSS, and the information is just a linked bunch of RTFs… and who would ever even find it here??

Anyhow, our work goes on. Though we gripe, we will not give up, and we will just wait for people to wake up and join this century. Despite the griping, we do get word the MLX items are getting use, re-use, and awareness. It is challenging because the lead technology people we work with are not even getting close to an understanding of new ways of managing content, RSS is a foreign word, etc.

“Time, patience, and perseverance” my Dad would always say. I keep mumbling that.

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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