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Creating Your Own Collections: MERLOT

blendedlearning's picture

The wealth of available educational resources can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate. Sites which currate these resources all have some built-in mechanism for sorting -- by subject matter, level of difficulty, source, etc. However, these pre-packaged collections are no replacement for currating your own prefered resources and materials into sets that correspond to your interests and courses. This series of posts will provide tutorials on how to create your own collections from sites which offer currated resource lists. This post will focus on MERLOT.

In order to create a collection on MERLOT, you have to subscribe as a member. The memberships are completely free, and their newsletter only comes out three times a year, so there’s nothing to lose by creating a profile. Be forewarned that even the basic mandatory profile is pretty extensive – you can’t really just click through, but it also doesn’t ask for anything unreasonable. Once you create an account, click on “Create a personal collection” from the home page and it will take you to the form for adding your own collection. The collection requires basic identifying material (a title and a description), but you have the option of adding more detailed information if the collection is intended as a Course Portfolio (materials curated for a specific course).  In that case, you can add the course title, prerequisites, learning outcomes, pedagogy approach, assessment methodology, and related links. For the sake of this tutorial, we will make a collection called Intro to Shakespeare.

When you’ve entered all the information you want, simply click submit and you will move to the “Detail View,” where the site will inform you that you, of course, “have not added any materials in this personal collection yet.” Follow the instructions and click on “search or browse Learning Materials.” You will see that there are three different ways to find materials: simple search, the “browse materials” area and the “material types” area. For this collection, we’ll try and find one resource from all three.

Let’s start with the search. Since Shakespeare-themed materials are likely to be categorized as Humanities, we can narrow the category to “Humanities.” For now, we’ll simply search for “Shakespeare” and see what we get.

One of the resources is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which would be useful to introductory Shakespeare students. Clicking on the material title opens the “Material Detail,” where we can see information about the material. On the far right side of the page is an editor rating and, below that, a box entitled “Add your own.” In this box, there’s an option to add the material to a personal collection. Simply select “Intro to Shakespeare” from the dropdown list and hit “Add.”

This brings up the option to add a Material Note – this is a good place to add clarification about what the resource is, how you want it to be used, or what parts of the resource you think is useful. For example, for a resource like this one, I might want to specify for which of the pieces I thought the site hosted quality editions. Once you enter your description, hit “Save” and you’ll receive a screen telling you “Your material was added to your personal collection.” When you click “Ok,” you’ll be returned to the material detail screen for the resource you just added to your collection in case you want to take another look at it. Since we’re done with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare for the moment, click on the highlighted “Learning Materials” tab just below the search bar to get back to the material index we were just looking at.

This time, let’s try finding a resource using the “Browse Material Hitlist by Category” widget on the top left of the screen. Once again, since Shakespeare materials are likely in the Humanities section, we’ll start by simply selecting “Humanities.” This will take us to another screen showing all of the subcategories listed under Humanities. Browsing through them, it seems most likely that the materials we’re looking for would be under “English,” which then breaks down into the two options “Language” and “Literature.” I chose literature, which then broke down into another set of categories – Drama, General, Poetry, Prose Fiction, and Prose Nonfiction. Shakespeare materials could be under a few of these categories, but let’s try Drama since perhaps our introductory course is focusing more on Shakespeare’s plays than his poetry. Fortuitously, this looks like a good choice; six of the ten resources on the first page of hits are Shakespeare-related. One of them is one of my personal favorite Shakespeare resources, Bard Box so let’s go ahead and add that to our collection. Once you select the resource, we use the exact same process as before of selecting the collection in the “Add your own” dialogue box and clicking “Add.” We now have two types of material ready for our Intro Shakespeare class, the beginning of a useful collection.

To try our third search method, click on “Learning Materials” once again to get back to the index. For our third resource we will sort by Material Type, which is one of MERLOT’s most useful features.

There are quite a few types of material listed, but for the moment let’s try something simple and look for a “Simulation.” This option brings up 3,445 results relating to various subjects, so we probably don’t want to scroll through all the options searching for Shakespeare-themed material. The search narrows the results down to two options, one of which is “Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: Virtual Tour.” The “About this material” section tells us that there are no Editors Reviews or Comments on this resource, so we might want to take a closer look at it, but for the moment let’s add it to our collection using the same process as before. Since we want to review it later, we’ll add a Material Note.

Now that we’ve created a collection, let’s review what we have so far. Click on the “My Profile” tab at the top of the page and then “Personal Collections” in the “View MERLOT Contributions” section. Selecting the collection will open the “Personal Collection Detail View,” which displays our collection description, all of the materials, and the material notes. This screen also gives us the option to edit and delete the collection, as well as share it with other users on MERLOT and others using email, social media, etc.

One final step we may want to try is comparing our new collection to other similar or related collections curated by other users. From the MERLOT home page, one of the options is “View personal collections from people in your discipline.” Selecting this option, in our current persona as a Shakespeare professor, brings us to all of the Personal Collections created by members who classified their field as Humanities. A quick search for “Shakespeare” shows us that our collection is one of seven existing Shakespeare collections hosted on MERLOT. We can browse these collections for ideas, inspiration, or resources we might have missed.