For some reason I’ve been having Cracker’s Teen Angst song in heavy iPod rotation; the lyrics are just ra ra (or is it la la la la). A new version might be:

Cause, what the web needs now
Is a new kind of resource collection.
Cause people just cant do search location.
Cause, what the world needs now
Is another learning resource repository
Like I need a hole in my head.

This is triggered by a series of Academic Commons articles, starting with an intro Building a Network, Expanding the Commons, Shaping the Field: Two Perspectives on Developing a SOTL Repository.

Gah, the word “repository” just gives me the way back feeling. As old as the web is is the idea we need to take time and effort to build neat organized cubby holes for the flow of information in it. It’s petty, but the very first sentence in this intro, a real throw away, just started my hair up:

More and more college and university faculty–in community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and large research universities–are working to improve their teaching practice.

Really? They were never doing that before? I’m now aware all the great teachers I had 20+ years ago were just punching a clock and focusing their time on parties at the faculty club.

And thus the tired old argument… there’s “more and more” information out there– and people dedicated with the business and practice of working in learning environments are really just dolts who cannot learn to be information savvy? “they are often overwhelmed by the mass of information.” So the obvious answer is .. “The internet is big and messy! Let’s spend time organizing bits of it for other people!”

In the first piece, Tom Carey writes about How Do Open Education Resources Acquire Their Value for Teaching and Learning?. Without reading this I might start thinking, is value in the resource or the eye of the beholder?

I reading the paper, I do “grok” that Carey pushes attention away from collecting the resources and suggests we should be building networks, not repositories:

we have begun to use the term “OER Knowledge Exchange Network” to refer to the emerging technical and social infrastructures which enable communities of higher education teachers to access, share, extend and apply online knowledge representations and resources for enhanced teaching and learning.

My understand starts to fade with the description of “Pedagogical Content Knowledge” which seems to be a concepot of harvesting the teaching practices and contexts on how resources are used- suggesting parallels with some of the meta structures that are designed around the MERLOT resources… good old MERLOT is still in the bottle? I recalled the time and effort it took to add reviews, use cases around MERLOT was severely dwarfed by the number of things in there. In 2005, I got notice that something I created had been reviewed in MERLOT … note that the resource was created in 1997.

If I can fathom what the premise here is to more than build collections of Open Education Resources, but also look to somehow catalog? connect? the teaching practices that put them into use.

The next article is Can a Repository Make the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Usable? which is more in the line of Field of Dreams- if we build a repository people will come. A lot of the emphasis of the group behind this seems to be focused on establishing Scholarship of Teaching and Learning as a “thing” or a “field” and this article makes a suggestion that the picture of a SoTL will emerge from collecting things about it.

Beyond simply storing or indexing SOTL research, ideally, a repository would act as a touchstone around which an academic community for the scholarship of teaching and learning could form while the repository would be in turn constructed and developed by that community. A spiraling process of development could enable the SOTL community to define the field inductively while, at the same time, the users of the repository would design appropriate ways to search the ideas and objects in the repository–for example, by using keywords–and refine and strengthen those search strategies to fit their community’s particular needs. New search mechanisms beyond keywords, which build on the ways that people access the information in a repository according to criteria such as “most searched,” “most bookmarked,” and “most viewed,” show additional promise for developing community-generated knowledge. By incorporating such ways for the repository to adapt to community-generated knowledge, the repository itself would reflect the dynamic nature of the field.

Finally, an electronic repository would provide a lasting virtual space for SOTL research, and the persistent URLs assigned to repository resources would keep items from disappearing into the ether. In addition, as the archive grew to include new items, it would provide data for the study of the historical development of the field.

Wow, keywords! search terms! And of course, the librarian mindset- we must preserve the tomes as a call. What makes the repository URLs and better than others?

Then the process of how “stuff: gets in the repository is described as a process of local groups recommending stuff, other groups reviewing and vetting… by the time this all happens on a large scale, my ashes will be compost.

I am not just tossing stone and glass houses. I built a frigging repository for all these reasons that people loved the concept and ignored the repositing.

What the world needs now is another repository, like I need a hole in my head.

The web is the repository.

I can guarantee that efforts to neatly organize the raging river of information shall fail. That does not mean there are not ways around it- why not harvest and use the existing technologies out there? a Digg-like entity for SoTL or whatever cause you have?

I will never ever ever build a repository or be involved with said construction.

What the world needs now is another repository, like I need a hole in my head.

The post "What The World Needs Now… is another learning resource repository" was originally assembled from spare parts of a 1957 Chevy at CogDogBlog ( on March 19, 2009.


  • Mike Cosgrave

    Yes but…

    if the repositories facilitate open access (rather than being buried in closed database which search engines can’t work through) then they do gather stuff and can save ploughing through pages of search results by searching myfavouriterepository.whatever and

    if they provide a focus for peer review then we can get some recognition for the time we put into developing materials

    and you have a ,edu instead of a .edu in the frigging link to MIX

    • Alan Levine aka CogDog

      Funny, I cannot remember favoring closed databases or even mentioning them.

      The said benefits of reviewing, In My Meaningless Opinion, remain paltry. A few resources get through review.

      And thanks for the frigging fix to my frigging url. Have a nice day.

  • Mathieu Plourde

    Yeah, I’m also getting sick of the word “repository”… We should promote “faculty stories” instead of “learning objects”. Stories bring back emotion in what we do, and emotion is what learning is all about.

    As Instructional Technologists, we need to help faculty find the motivation, the purpose of creating enhanced learning opportunities for their students and for themselves.

  • D'Arcy Norman

    isn’t a pretty kickass repository? open. flexible. searchable. but it’s also syndicatable, collaborative, and lightweight. oh, and easy. that’s the most important part.

    google + == the most effective repository I’ve used.

    D’Arcy Norman’s latest blog post…links for 2009-03-19

  • Totally agree… well said.

  • Maria H. Andersen


    What the world needs (really) is teachers to USE the materials on the web. You know … all those materials that are in all those learning repositories.

    Maria H. Andersen’s latest blog post…TeX Inventor on GoogleTalks

  • leigh blackall

    Right on Alan, and Maria.. the more they use those materials, the more the good stuff will float to the top. More teachers using Delicious, blogging, twittering, emailing links to each other.. oh hangon.. they’ll need to first learn how to make a hyperlink in an email.. o oh.. this idea is doomed. Better build a repository and teach them how to search, download, and unpack IMS common cartidge into frigging LMS instead. They’ll never work out hyperlinks in emails…

    leigh blackall’s latest blog post…I’m about to stop this blog

  • Peter Rawsthorne

    Right-on! any edtech, faculty member, teacher, etc… who engages in a platform discussion needs to explore the concept in its entirety. They need to exhaust the conversation to the point where they realize the internet is the platform. How can any single institution / organization innovate fast enough to keep up with the internet. So many institutional leaders have heads like swiss cheese. ;)

  • OER and MERLOT | learning about learning

    […] I’ve looked through MERLOT before and didn’t find much of use, but it’s been awhile, so I thought I’d look again. Like Michelle, I didn’t find much, and a good bit of what was there was outdated. The few useful resources I found in MERLOT I had already discovered elsewhere. As Alan Levine pointed out a couple of years ago, “The web is the repository.” […]

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