The Final Finish Line for the Last Great MLX Package Race

After 3 or 4 extensions, December 8 is the final deadline I have set in the sand for our 4th and final Great Maricopa Learning eXchange Package Race. As outlined in previous presentations, we set up an incentive program to entice people in our system to contribute their learning activities, teaching materials, project summaries to the Maricopa Learning eXchange (MLX).

We merely tracked contributions within a set date range, a rather simple database exercise and provide software prizes to the top producers. We obtained software by begging some vendors (thanks much to Macromedia, Anystream, and Apple) or using our New Media Consortium (NMC) software discounts to obtain others.

We started out awarding prizes to our colleges that contributed the most new items within a set period Nov 2002 – Feb 2003 expecting to do this as a one time affair. However, after noting a severe drop off in contributions right after the “race”, it was suggested we make the process ongoing, and adding incentives to individuals contributing the most for Mar 2003 – Sep 2003 and Oct 2003 – Mar 2004.

Also individual scores are weighted by a factor that favors packages with more visitors, so there should be a payoff for getting content in in the earlier part of the race.

It has been fairly effective in getting waves of new contributions, often days before the end of the races, but all along I was hoping to get out of the “bribing for packages” game, so for this last race, we offered only individual prizes. I’d have to say that the numbers are not overly awesome, as the top individuals in years past were in the 20+ range, while this time, the output is more in the 7-9 range. We have colleges that year after year are at the top of the list, and other colleges that do not really end us anything.

I extended it a few times to get more participants, then because I was gone 3 weeks ion November, then one more budge when I found my weighting factor for individual scores had a bug in it.

And I view all the numbers through a filter knowing that a good chunk come from the required reports for our Learning Grants program, where 60+ grants awarded each year are required to submit final reports which are designed to send copies to the MLX. And we have other programs, such as the Innovation of the Year where we actually entered MLX items in the names of others so we can have the MLX feed a specific web site with site dependent info (the list of winners is actually generated by a call to an MLX special collection).

But not to ride the pessimism train too much, I see some great new MLX packages, and hear more people than our office being regular vocal advocates of the MLX. A faculty group we are working at see it as a key component to a new web site and project we are working on related to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

I even had a demo las week for new faculty where one said, “Why should we need software as an inducement to share? It does not motivate me.” Speaking my words, niiiiiiiice.

And I get wind of some nice anecdotal pieces– word from our colleges that adjunct faculty are finding the teaching materials very useful. And just last week, one of our MLX users emailed this nice little story from Sharon:

I have to say, Alan, that I have had some wonderful experiences and interactions with newly found colleague-friends as a result of MLX.  My most recent email communication back and forth with a professor from the University of Texas at San Antonio has been in relation to a couple of things about critical thinking that I packaged for MLX.  She and I have enjoyed a wonderful, informal e-conversation about Richard Paul, critical thinking, and such.  I have found it invigorating and motivating!

So my MLX commercial might be sound like.. “9 new MLX items…. Copy of Macromedia Director; 7 new MLX items… Apple iSight Camera…. Anecdotal story of faculty developing new connections… Priceless!”

After the dust settles from the race, over the next few months, I am eager to find more of these anecdotal stories of how people are using the MLX (along the lines of our 2003 “Believe It or Not” video clips), stuff you do not get from web stats.

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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.