Encouraging Your Faculty to Use MERLOT to Enhance Their Classes
Have you heard the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink?” I think it is the same situation with trying to encourage instructors to use many of the resources that are available to them. In today’s reality of decreased budgets, increased teaching loads, and increased workloads in general, it is difficult for some faculty to find the time to learn new technologies.
So, what can we do to make it easier for faculty to use technology? It does take a long time to create your own materials, as you have to learn the technology as well as apply it to your own courses. That is one reason why the materials available on MERLOT are so helpful in faculty development programs.
Early on at MERLOT, we used the term, “Why recreate the wheel?” If creative, engaging materials are available as Open Education Resources (OERs), why not use (re-use) materials created by others? Today, with programs such as Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org), you can specify the types of permissions you allow on your materials.
MERLOT provides not just the connections to resources created by others, but they are catalogued by discipline, by class level, by type, etc. In fact, MERLOT has 18 different types of materials in the collection of 28,000+ teaching and learning materials that encompass many disciplines.
However, as with leading a horse to water, how do you go beyond just showing faculty the resources? How do you “make him drink?” How do you get instructors to understand how they can use them?
One of the answers is to involve them in discussions about how different materials can be used in classes. Faculty development programs can be created in which instructors can discuss how materials can be used, even in cross-disciplinary communities. You may not be a Math instructor, but having a Math instructor explain how he uses a given material to help engage the students in his class can open your eyes to how you could use something like that in your class.
Working with a group of instructors from different disciplines can be extremely helpful in convincing them to use materials in their classes. Having available a variety of high-quality learning materials can generate a lot of discussion about how the materials can be used. Continuing discussions after the workshop is over is also helpful in creating a community of instructors who want to improve their teaching, either face-to-face or online. That type of excitement and community can help them find time to put aside grading, researching, and all the other activities in which they are engaged, to help them use some of the new technology and resources that are available today.