The Personal Collection (PC) tool of MERLOT (http://www.merlot.org/) can promote the reuse of Open Educational Resources and enhance pedagogical content knowledge. Personal Collections (PCs) offer the stimulating possibility of personalizing public learning object repositories, with the emphasis on the individual. Even though PCs add a strong element of personalization to the system, they still retain the many institutional benefits of learning object repositories.
The importance of Open Educational Resources (OERs) has been widely documented and demonstrated recently. The current global trends of sharing and retrieving materials, through which multiple content developers offer their learning materials to the public free of charge, provides a strategic opportunity to improve the quality of education as well as facilitate policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building (Downes, 2007; Bonk, 2009; Hilton et al., 2010; Hilton & Wiley, 2011). However, despite the many advantages inherent in OERs the usage of these open learning materials is rather low. Furthermore, the level of OERs adoption into common teaching practices remains quite low (De Liddo, 2010).
The aim of this research is to explore the Personal Collection (PC) tool of MERLOT (www.merlot.org) as a facilitator for adoption of OERs into common teaching practices. A PC is a compilation of MERLOT modules that members can access easily to use for specific purposes, classes or topics. The owner of the PC can annotate each collection to easily explain its purpose, a pedagogical approach and if it relates to a specific course. PCs offer the stimulating possibility of personalizing public learning object repositories, with the emphasis on the individual. Even though PCs add a strong element of personalization to the system, they still retain the many institutional benefits of learning object repositories.
The process of using PCs in repositories has often been discussed theoretically, but never empirically evaluated. This research provides data regarding the usage rate of PCs; it profiles the users and describes the extent of their use and aims, as an initial step toward understanding the experience of the repository members who were first to adopt these PCs (early adopter group). These findings assist in expanding the use of PCs among other active members, along with understanding the advantages of PCs and their instructional value. Furthermore, they will help the administrator of the repository to design and plan the technological infrastructure needed to receive, store, and share the published PCs, along with adapting to other communities that are connected to MERLOT, such as the MAOR and Chile future repository.
The usage rate of Personal Collections
MERLOT has 104,771 members (as of June 14, 2012). Of those, 9,841 members have 2 PCs on average (StD=3.7), and a total of 20,816 Private Collections among the following nine disciplines: Arts (956); Business (1,563); Education (3,879); Humanities (3,099); Mathematics and Statistics (989); Science and Technology (5,697); Social Sciences (1,152); Workforce Development (91); and Academic Support Services (2,059). All PCs are shared with the community.
The number of PCs grows over time as well as the number of members creating the PCs (Figure 1). During the past six years, the number of PCs increased from 7,837 to 20,816, and the number of PC creators increased, as well, from 4,330 to 9,841.
Figure 1: Growth rate of Personal Collections and their creators
The Personal Collection Users
The affiliation of most of the PC Creators is education (57.7%); other affiliations are non-profit organizations, corporations and governments. Most of the PC Creators are faculty members (4,603; 47%) and students (2,992; 30.5%); others are staff members, k-12 teachers, librarians and content developers.
PC has been found to be the most widely used component in MERLOT. More than half (9,841; 61%) of all 16,134 members that contributed at least one item to the MERLOT repository, created PCs. Furthermore, the number of PC Creators (N=9,841) was greater than any other contributor type, such as: Comment Writers, Authors of Materials, Peer Reviewers, Learning Exercise Submitters, and Content Builder Material Submitters.
Many of the PC Creators are active users in MERLOT. Of the 9,841 that created PCs, 1,478 members have also contributed materials and peer reviews to the repository, as well as written comments. It was further found that 95% of the PC Creators have contributed between 1-10 items to the repository (including their collections).
Materials retrieve/ reuse through PCs
The MERLOT repository provides access to 35,186 educational materials in varied disciplines and types. Of those, 33.4% (N=11,390) were integrated in the 20,816 PCs. Due to the fact that material can be integrated in more than one PC, a total of 51,164 links to materials were found in all 20,816 PCs. Figure 2 presents the distribution of the materials in PCs. These materials in PCs represent a variety of disciplines (Science and Technology, Humanities, Business, Education, Social Sciences, Arts, Mathematics and Statistics, Workforce Development, and Academic Support Services) and types (Reference Material, Tutorial, Presentation, Simulation, Collection, Animation, Drill and Practice, Open Textbook, Open Journal-Article, Online Course, Quiz/Test, Case Study, Assessment Tool, Assignment, Learning Object Repository, Workshop and Training Material, Social Networking Tool, Development Tool, and ePortfolio).
Figure 2: No. of materials in Personal Collections
PCs offer the stimulating possibility of personalizing public learning object repositories, with the emphasis on the individual. Even though PCs add a strong element of personalization to the system, they still retain the many institutional benefits of learning object repositories. Furthermore, the number of times that each learning object appears in PCs has been demonstrated to be highly correlated with quality, since it is positively associated with good materials for every discipline category (Cechinel et al., 2011).
Personal Collection uses and aims
MERLOT members create PCs for various uses with diverse goals: for their own use (e. g. my tools, my resources), while allowing others to view and copy; for other users, such as the students in their courses and other students; for teachers of their discipline; for their professional community, etc.
PCs are applicable for a variety of uses. Here are some examples of various common usages of the PC:
· A PC as an assemblage of resources and tools, which support the learning of particular domain skills and their improvement. It is used for rapid detection of these resources and tools at any time and for repeated use in the process of teaching or learning. In these PCs, new teaching and learning processes are constructed on the basis of the existing materials that are available.
· A PC as a stage (environment) for the presentation of resources and various outcomes for the community. For example, displaying student products or project products, whether they manage and operate them or whether these projects are gathered from the repositories.
Example: MERLOT PC for the presentation of ELIXR Websites and call for collaborations: "These are MERLOT materials that come from the MERLOT-ELIXR project. The MERLOT ELIXR project is intended to develop and test new collaborations amongst faculty development centers and online resource repositories. The goal is to create innovative models for the development, sharing and use of discipline-oriented resources which illustrate exemplary teaching practices and which also support faculty with exemplary learning objects to help implement those practices with their students…". Another example is the "Students Tools" PC: "In Fall 2005, Delgado Community College in New Orleans was flooded as a result of Hurrican Katrina. Faculty and students scattered and were trying to build online resources to continue to offer their classes in the Spring of 2006. MERLOT responded in the form of Personal Collections for specific classes. These are tools that can be used in a College Introduction course".
· A PC as a space for teachers from diverse disciplines.
Example: "STARTALK Arabic Collection": Here are web sites that may be used to engage young learners of the Arabic language, especially those in the STARTALK program or the " Learning to Teach Online: Free online professional resources for educators who want to develop successful online teaching skills".
· A PC for creating and displaying open text books.
Example: "Open Math Textbooks: This is a collection of open textbooks currently under consideration for review by the Community College Open Textbook Project (http://www.collegeopentextbooks.org) of the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (http://cccoer.wordpress.com). [from Judy Baker]",
· A PC for creating and displaying Workshops.
Example: "5-minute eClips and Brief Hybrid Workshops: An ’eClip‘ is a pre-recording produced as a single computer file. It may include a variety of media elements: sound, images, text, etc. A ’brief hybrid workshop‘ is an activity usually less than 15 minutes that includes the use of one or more Internet-accessible eClips AND some other files, activities, documents, plans, guidelines, etc. It is intended to help a group of people produce or learn how to do something useful to them…".
· A PC for creating and displaying ePortfolio.
Example: "ePortfolios in Workforce Development: There is much discussion about showcasing for workforce development, and some states are supporting eportfolios for their residents."
· A PC for creating and displaying online courses.
Example: PC of Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges: " These are free, online courses that are part of the Open Course Library at Washington State, a collection of shareable course materials created for faculty to use in their classes. As part of the Open Course Library this content is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which means that you are free to reuse the course in its entirety, edit it and use your own modified version, or pick out only pieces which can be incorporated into your own course, as long as you credit the original author for their work".
Another example is the Carnegie Mellon " Open Learning Initiative Courses: These are courses that have been developed by Carnegie Mellon for the Open Learning Initiative (http://oli.web.cmu.edu/openlearning/initiative)".
· A PC as an assemblage of support materials for a course, or as one wrote "Non-text teaching materials - some interactive and possibly relevant resources". To these materials the user added meta-data to describe the resource.
Example: "This is an excellent interactive on-line case study of the Cameron Hot Air Balloon factory in Bristol, UK. It covers many aspects of the functional disciplines of business: human resource management, operations, production management, accounting, marketing, etc. It also includes hypertext links to different departments in the ACTUAL FACTORY! The site is illustrated with real photos, bios of various managers, and data. This is a real find!" (The Cameron Balloon Factory, Author: University of Bristol, BizEd, Submitter: Ron Purser).
PCs were associated with the websites of 420 courses and were used for publishing the course or contained resources related to the course subject matter. For example, "History - Western Civilization" course: " This course offers an introduction to the major themes of Western civilization, many of which have had a profound influence on American society and culture. The course will describe the development of Western civilization from its ancient origins in the Mediterranean, including Greece and Rome, to the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. One suggested text is..."
Access – MERLOT is a free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy. Everyone (MERLOT members or non-members) can view and use PCs available in MERLOT. Members can create a personal collection as well. All Personal Collections are shared with the community; they are completely online, and can be used at any time and any place.
Faculty Satisfaction – The PC can be customized easily and quickly for individual needs without requiring special technical knowledge, and is applicable for a variety of uses.
Learning Effectiveness – Learning object repositories are a shared, open and public space. However, the possibility and ability of personal expression in an open, global, public space is crucial. Alongside the many advantages inherent in sharing and integrating materials in a public space, PCs allow users to self-express themselves within the learning and creative process. Users construct, preserve and present knowledge in a way uniquely suited to their individual patterns of use. Creators of these learning processes can use materials developed by others and include them in their personal spaces within the repository.
Scale – A PC is an online format for wider adoption. It is applicable in a variety of uses and can be used by ALL (members and non- members, faculties and students, k-12 teachers, librarians, content developers, etc.), all over the world, free of charge and with no need for special skills and tools. Consequently, the PC is a highly cost effective approach to supporting instruction and learning processes.
Student Satisfaction - PCs enable the construction of a unique learning process in private spaces that suits the learner's needs.
The PC is a web base tool. For the user/ member there is no special equipment necessary other than access to the internet. For MERLOT, internal resources are invested to develop and build the PC platform.
Bonk, C. J. (2009). The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint.
Cechinel, C., Sanchez-Alonso, S., & Garcia-Barriocanal, E. (2011). Statistical profiles of highly-rated learning objects, Computers & Education, 57(1), 1255-1269.
De Liddo, A. (2010). From open content to open thinking. World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications (Ed-Media 2010), Canada.
Downes, S. (2007). Models for Sustainable Open Educational Resources. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, 3, 29-44.
Hilton J. L., Wiley, D., Stein, J., & Johnson, A. (2010). The four ‘R’s of openness and ALMS analysis: frameworks for open educational resources. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 25:1, 37-44.
Hilton, J. L., Wiley, D. (2011). Open access textbooks and financial sustainability: A case study on Flat World Knowledge. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(5), 18-26.