Overview of the MERLOT ELIXR Project

Overview of the MERLOT ELIXR Project

·         MERLOT’s ELIXR project, elixr.merlot.org, is a digital case story repository that hosts more than 70 discipline-specific multimedia stories. All the stories are organized in modules, with each story demonstrating an exemplary teaching practice for a particular theme topic and related resources for use in faculty and professional development.

·         The case stories span nineteen teaching topics, such as understanding and meeting students’ needs, teaching strategies, and technology and learning, and represent 43 disciplines.

·         Thirty diverse United States higher education institutions, plus four Canadian institutions, have participated in the project.

·         The website – http://elixr.merlot.org - provides resources on creating digital case stories, tips on the application of these stories for faculty development, and offers a feature to download case stories.

Snapshot of Evaluation Results

·         The MERLOT ELIXR project provided ‘added value’ to faculty development efforts, as indicated by evidence from the faculty development leaders who assisted in data collection for evaluation efforts. 

·         Two further evaluation studies[i] also looked at the impact of stories on individual faculty, and the studies suggest that faculty members did as expected “learn about the teaching topic and make changes in their teaching practices,” as stated in the Independent Evaluator’s Report[ii].

·         The evaluation report also indicates that faculty members reported the stories were “valuable tools for communicating how to implement a teaching technique” (regardless of whether the faculty members experienced the case stories via the web or in-person).

·         Follow-up surveys with faculty using the MERLOT ELIXR digital case stories in a workshop setting indicated that the faculty had, when possible, “included one or more of the activities associated with a particular workshop into their class activities or they were likely to do so in the future[iii].

Lessons Learned

·         Choosing case story topics and partners: One of the lessons learned is in the selection of teaching topics; the case story design team should assess whether the topic is in high demand and can be easily adapted to fit faculty culture of various institutions. 

·         Regional relationships provide a foundation for collaboration: Another lesson learned is that regional links (for instance, Texas Faculty Development Network or the California State University Faculty Development Council) proved more valuable than topical links, partly because the existing relationships can be leveraged and partly due to shared strategic interests at the topic level. 

·         Designing case stories: Originally, guidelines for the MERLOT ELIXR design teams recommended a more documentary style story where you capture copious amounts of information on film and then find the main story points.  However, in many cases, teams found it challenging to sufficiently edit the story to make it succinct and compelling.  The didactic approach worked better.  In one instance where a team made three different stories, the faculty developer on her third story clearly identified the story points to tell a motivating story and then conducted interviews and prepared the story in authoring software. This approach resulted in fewer edits and overall a more simple way to design a story.

·         More on the Design Process: An aspect of the design process which merits further study is the appropriate investment in time for creating the story and for developing the media.  When resources are constrained and the original project plan proves to be too ambitious, we would counsel future project teams to focus on the story telling aspects and economize on media development (rather than the other way round...).

·         Reviewing case stories: ELIXR created a Review workspace and listserve to allow case story designers to receive formative feedback throughout the design process from other designers and from potential users in faculty development centers.  On many occasions, we observed that the review comments made the story more adaptable by highlighting the parts of the story that worked well, identifying parts of the story that weren’t clear and suggesting ways to reorganize the flow of the story. In general, a small number of review comments would identify the majority of the weak points in the story and help the designers to generalize it for use beyond their institutions.


[ii] McMartin, F. (2010); Evaluation of ELIXR, a FIPSE-funded Project

[iii] McMartin, F. (2010); Evaluation of ELIXR, a FIPSE-funded Project


 List of Contributors
 Season Eckardt, Program Manager for the MERLOT ELIXR Project, seckardt@calstate.edu