Saturday, October 08, 2005

Gerard Hanley

Enabling Open Education with MERLOT
Gerard Hanley, MERLOT
Wednesday, September 28, 2005, 3:15-4:00 pm

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Measures of MERLOT Vitality as an Open Education Community and

The MERLOT Collection: MERLOT is a metadata repository of over 12,000 records of web-based learning materials, growing at a rate of over 2,000 new materials last year. The materials are cataloged across a wide range of disciplines by its members. Each learning material can also have links to information providing users with the pedagogical context for choosing, evaluating, and integrating the online materials into teaching and learning.
• Over 1,700 materials have been peer reviewed and over 8,800 are undergoing peer review.
• About 2,100 materials have one or more member comments and evaluations.
• Over 2,100 MERLOT members have created their own personal collection of MERLOT materials.
• Over 650 materials contain sample student assignments for using the materials in class.

Being a “referatory” rather than a repository of the learning materials, MERLOT does not guarantee the 24 X 7 availability of the materials which are stored on servers across the globe. However, the MERLOT software does have an automatic link checker and process for fixing or removing broken links. Less than 2% of the learning material links are repaired or removed at any time.

The MERLOT Member Community: In 2005, MERLOT has been used by over 30,000 unique users per month, an increase of over 85% from last year. People are also choosing to become MERLOT members (for free) at a rate of over 700 people per month in 2005, resulting in a directory of over 26,000 profiles of people. As registered members, they can become contributors to the MERLOT collection. Over 5,000 of MERLOT’s members are students and about 15,000 are faculty.

Design Principles for Open Education
MERLOT opened its doors in 1997 at the California State University System and from the start there were a number of key design principles that guided the continuous development of MERLOT as an open education resource and community.
• Access to MERLOT must be free to the end user, like our public libraries.
• Searching and browsing the collection does not require logging in.
• The overwhelming majority of teachers and students who could use a digital library need it to be extremely easy to use.
• Users can choose the degree to which they wish to participate in MERLOT.
o Minimal information is required to register as member but members can create an elaborate member profile within MERLOT.
• MERLOT must be a performance support service.
o Provide people just enough information to help them decide if they know enough to take the “next steps” in using or not using the materials.
o Provide services that can be easily woven into existing workflow process of teaching and learning for faculty, students, librarians, staff, and others.
o Provide people different levels of participation in MERLOT that matches their interests and motivations.
• All materials in MERLOT must be directly linked to an individual member who is publicly identified within MERLOT. The social tagging of public content creates a baseline quality assurance process and connection between content and users.
• “You get more than you give”. Users must experience and believe MERLOT to be a generous service if MERLOT is to incite volunteerism.

Sustaining the Open Education Services of MERLOT
If MERLOT is free to end-users, who pays for the costs of designing, developing, operating, and managing MERLOT? The MERLOT consortium has been designed on the principle of “slipstreaming”:
Improving your performance by leveraging the work of others. By recognizing the existence of strong needs of many different types of organizations, MERLOT has been able to establish and manage the slipstreaming and enabled each organization to achieve goals they couldn’t do by themselves.

There are a number of key ingredients to MERLOT’s slipstreaming success.
1. Leadership and management provided by the California State University System
2. Financial and human resource development through partnerships.
a. University partner institutions (15 state systems and 6 campuses) contribute cash to support operations and support faculty on editorial boards.
b. Publishers (O’Reilly Media) contribute cash to support editorial boards and co-marketing of blending free and fee-based materials
3. Collection building through federation of digital libraries a. GLOBE (Global Learning Object Brokered Exchange) is a federation of Australia’s EdNA online, European Union’s ARIADNE, Japan’s NIME-GLAD, and Canada’s CLOE.
b. Federated search partnerships have been/are being developed with a number of discipline-based professional organizations (AAPT, UNC, JCE, CAUSE, HEAL, etc)
c. Partnerships with professional societies for collection development and management are created within MERLOT (ATHE)
4. Developing multiple distribution channels
a. MERLOT has or is building MERLOT search services with all the major LMS vendors (Blackboard, WebCT, Desire2Learn, Angel) and open source projects (Moodle). Sakai is planned as well.
b. MERLOT RSS feeds (over 450 registered applications)
5. Continuously develop user services to improve value to users and partners
a. NSF grants and subcontracts are used to develop peer review services, collaboration services, reusability guidelines, and services for adjunct faculty.
6. Technology implementation through corporate and non-profit organization partnerships
a. Macromedia provides licenses for Contribute, Captivate, and Breeze for MERLOT’s portal
development and professional development programs. MERLOT provides visible case study and guidelines for effective application of technologies
b. Sun Microsystems provides funds and marketing (Sun News Today) to advocate the growing use of technologies
c. New Media Consortium’s development of the Pachyderm authoring tool to be marketed to faculty authoring community.

In conclusion, MERLOT is an open education resource and community that is designed to be leveraged by the world and through the worlds’ participation, become a greater benefit for education throughout the world.


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