Data Driven Innovation of MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources of Learning and Online Teaching)

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

We will describe how MERLOT uses data analytics to make decisions driving its evolution, focusing on interface redesign, innovative functions, user engagement, and community-building.


Professor of Learning, Design, and Technology at San Diego State University (California, USA), distinguished research professor of Shanghai International Studies University (Shanghai, China), and research fellow for British Telecomm. Minjuan is recognized as one of the high impact authors in blended and mobile learning. She is the Editor-in-Chief of a newly established journal—Emerging Technologies and Pedagogies for Education. She also serves on the editorial boards for four other journals: Open Education Research, International Journal on E-Learning (IJEL), the Open Education Journal, and Journal of Information Technology Application in Education.

Extended Abstract

Open Educational Resources (OER) are highly popular throughout the world, and are increasingly supported by governments on all continents of the globe. As a leader in the field of online education, the Multimedia Educational Resources of Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) community and system have been in existence since 1997. As an international consortium of higher-education systems and institutions, MERLOT provides an IT platform for the creation, submission, curation, and sharing of online learning materials. Full time staff are supported by active volunteers who participate in day-to-day activities that benefit the MERLOT community.

Research Questions: In the past decade, dramatic changes in technology have brought tremendous changes to teaching and learning, including enabling relatively easy development of open and online learning resources. How does MERLOT stay current? How does MERLOT's management team use data analytics to drive their decision making? This paper aims to answer these questions.

Research Method: This will be a mixed-method study, using both quantitative and qualitative data to discuss MERLOT's use of:
1) Google analytics that focus on users' experience with the MERLOT's website,
2) Data to measure the effectiveness of new functions and community programs, and
3) Social media tools to affect changes and growth of the MERLOT system.
Potential results: We will discuss how the MERLOT team makes changes to its website and to policies based on data analytics. For example, data analytics have been used to re-architect the MERLOT database, drive website redesign, and to provide a clearer and more intuitive interface that can be used by its growing international community. Powered by Google Translate, MERLOT now enables multilingual access and usage, presenting its user interface in any language, from Afrikaans to Zulu. Included in its multilingual features, largely through the redesign of its Oracle database structure, is the ability for international educators to submit and retrieve materials in their native languages, so as to build material collections in those different languages.

"To be innovative, organizations must engage their customers in continuous dialogue, codeveloping solutions through an exchange of needs and ideas, known as value creation" (Halale, 2015, p.40). Today, the sharing of ideas and knowledge is often accomplished through social media. MERLOT has tapped into the power of social media to make itself more useful for teaching and learning. Currently, MERLOT has about 4,000 followers on Twitter and 1,500 on Facebook. This paper will present sample data from MERLOT's Twitter posting and interactions, in both quantitative and qualitative format, to illustrate how MERLOT leverages social media to reach and engage its members and to strengthen its various communities. As well, the paper will present and discuss the role of Voices, MERLOT's collection of online communities that further enable the success and growth of the consortium.

Target Audience: This paper and its associated presentation will target audiences who are interested in developing effective, open educational resources, faculty who are actively seeking innovative ideas for teaching, and administrators who manage open educational resources and support resources.