The Next (and Last?) Great MLX Package Race

For the last two years we have tried a myriad of methods for soliciting people in our system to contribute their teaching ideas, class activities, course materials, heck even “learning objects” to our Maricopa Learning eXchange (MLX) (see more about our incentive methods)

Even getting closer to the 1000 item mark, I know for sure we are just scraping the surface of what is “out there”. I get anecdotes, faculty letting me know that their adjuncts are making re-use of a lot of items, others thankful for specific resources, etc.

At our most recent Online Learning Group meeting, one participant thanked us for the “prize patrol picker” we use to give away door prizes (a Flash thing that picks random numbers from a pool 1-N). “Are you okay that 16 of our faculty use this?” he asked? Of course! I want more re-use!

Anyhow, now with the semester in gear, it was time for another system-wide email to invite our folks to “play” in the MLX Great Package Race. This is where we are tracking all MLX items submitted between April 1, 2004 and March 15, 2004 and will give the top contributers some software prizes, most of them donated from some nice vendors. In the last few races we had given multi-license software prizes to the colleges that contribute the most, but now we are “phasing” out of the competition/bribery approach, so this might be the Last Great Race.

Why stop this if it has been successful? I do not think we always need to create personal incentives for sharing resources. The act itself ought to be its own reward, and being public with your teaching methods is a cornerstone to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning movement which many in our system ascribe to.

And to be honest, I want to put some more effort on the next months on finding out how our packages are used/re-used…

Anyhow, for whomever cares, I am including the text of the email that was blitzed last week across Maricopa (so far it surfaced about 3 new items, sigh).

The Olympics have ended but the current Maricopa Learning eXchange (MLX) Great Package race is still on through October 15, 2004. Just sharing descriptions of a few ideas or materials that likely already exist on your computer, can vault you into first place for individual prizes of Macromedia Director MX 2004 software, an iSight camera, and more. Plus you will be providing resources to benefit your colleagues.

“So what is the MLX?” It is an online warehouse of ideas, materials, projects created or used at Maricopa to support learning, everything from multimedia objects to classroom activity ideas, to descriptions of  projects and resource materials. And it is just not class materials- there are technical manuals, resource guides, etc. The MLX contains more than 970 items, and we have search tools to help you find things by keyword search, people’s names, and disciplines:

“But why a ‘Great Race’?” This is our effort to entice more people to participate. We have been tracking the items contributed since April 1, 2004, and we will individual incentives for people who share the most through March 15, 2004.  See:

“So how do I participate?” Great question! If you have not registered yet at the MLX, see our Loading Dock Manager to instantly create an account:

From there you can instantly start creating your MLX inventory. The MLX is open to full-time and part-time faculty, staff… even administrators!

“Why Should I share” ” What do I get out of this?” ” I do not have anything new or innovative” ” I do not have much time”
We call this an exchange because the more people put into it, the more everyone gains.

We recently built a new feature that allows you to create a web link to a display of all the items you have put in the MLX, e.g. that you can put on your home page, send to your supervisor, or email to your Mom… e.g.

And we have pioneered a tool that allows any college web site to embed a dynamically updated display of content their own college has contributed, e.g see the website for Estrella Mountain’s Center for Teaching and Learning. One line of web code inserted into their page produces the content on the right that is updated automatically every hour.

MLX items need not be large new flashy projects, and in fact, the better items are often the short descriptions of effective classroom activities, assignments that already exist as computer files, ideas for dealing with extra credit or grading rubrics. If you teach a course, wouldn’t it help you (and others) to know the resources, activities, ideas other people use who teach the same content? Even a syllabus would be useful. And this is not limited to faculty. People have shared computer training manuals, evaluations of equipment, descriptions of administrative tools, etc. Share 10 of these and you might win the top prize!

We are also storing in the MLX the outcomes reported by recipients of MCLI Learning Grants and summaries from faculty who use the online tool to submit their reports for 2004 Faculty Professional Growth Summer Projects.

You also find MLX special collections, which include groups of items related to a specific theme. These include project ideas by participants in Chandler-Gilbert’s Summer Institute on Writing Across the Curriculum:

Or see the collection of 70+ teaching materials collected for use among Nutrition faculty at several colleges, thanks much to the leadership of Maureen Zimmerman (Mesa Community College):

“I have no time”. No one has too much. The time, skill, and technical expertise to create an MLX entry is nothing more that what it takes to write a 2 paragraph email messages and add an attachment or a web address. See the examples that follow for ones that probably took only minutes to enter.

“Why is this the ‘last race’?” We have run 4 of these over the last two years to bolster the MLX collection, to get it to a “critical mass”, and we have enough useful resources to demonstrate its value. Sharing and collaboration among colleagues ought to be their own rewards, rather then personal gain.

“I am still not clear on what these packages are…” That’s okay, look at a few of some of the simple but useful ones already there:

Presidential Election Candidate Comparison Heuristic
shared by Hope Manross (Chandler-Gilbert Community College)  “includes descriptions of a series of enabling activities that can be used to help students select three election issues and draft a position comparison paper for a minimum of two candidates.”

Student Learning Outcomes Outside of the Classroom
is the report from a 2003-2004 Learning Grant to Paradise Valley Community College. “This project focused on learning outcomes for each of the student support areas. We wanted to bring assessment processes to areas of learning outside the classroom. Each area revised their learning outcomes to align with a specific PVCC General Outcome. Measures and methods were identified.”

Endocytosis: Flash Animation
Biology faculty Karen Conzelman (Glendale Community College) shares a Flash animation that shows the “process of endocytosis (phagocytosis) by a single eukaryotic cell.”

Digestion Interactive Unit
Nutrition faculty Laura May (Mesa Community College) created this unit that “takes you through digestion and absorption, including hormone control, digestive enzymes and dietary recommendations for common digestive disturbances.”

If for chance you visit some of these MLX packages, do me a favor and leave some comments or if you blog them or mention them on another site, use our “Shareback” tools to register a connection between your web site(s) and the MLX item.

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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.