ABSTRACT by maclaren1



Partners: Ohio State University (Ohio); Brigham Young University (Utah); Indiana State
University (Indiana); Coastline Community College (California); Oklahoma State
Regents for Higher Education; University System of Georgia; Minnesota State Colleges
and Universities; Teach the Earth - Science Education Resource Center [SERC]

The ELIXR initiative is creating a repository of digital case stories for exemplary
teaching innovations, illustrating both the product and the process of the innovations and
their impact on student learning. The case stories demonstrate the innovations in both
disciplinary and institutional contexts. They are designed for use in faculty development
programs by our partner institutions as well as by individual faculty accessing them
through our repository partners. In addition, the ELIXR initiative is developing a social
and technical infrastructure to sustain the ongoing creation, evaluation and application of
digital case stories as resources for disseminating exemplary practice and innovations in
teaching and learning.

The ELIXR initiative is organized around Theme Topics, selected by faculty
development units at our partner institutions to reflect common institutional priorities,
e.g. Active Learning in Large Lecture Classes and Universal Design for Learning. Five
such themes have been selected to date, with one more to be determined in ELIXR's 2nd
year. Each theme will be illustrated with case stories from multiple disciplines.
Commitments are in place for 18 case stories from 14 partner institutions, with initial
pilot testing in faculty development programs planned for August 2007. More
information on the Themes and case story projects is available at our collaborative
webspace, http://elixr.merlot.org.

The Evaluation plan for ELIXR includes evaluation of impacts on faculty, on faculty
development programs, and in selected instances on student learning. The Evaluation will
also assess the extent to which the ELIXR initiative has become self-sustaining, through a
compelling value proposition which engages institutions in ongoing development of case
stories in exchange for access to the repository of resources for institutional programs.

Our repository partner, the GeoScience faculty portal Teach the Earth hosted by SERC, is
creating a plan to integrate the digital case stories into their pedagogical support service
and to migrate the results to the MERLOT repository. We have also created prototype
resources to support faculty authoring case stories and their institutional support teams.
These include initial Guides for faculty authors, faculty development units, and digital
media specialists. We have also developed case story Templates and Software to support
case story authors, and a Guide for faculty development programs to make effective use
of the resources.

We have been very encouraged by the results of the project to date, including the

willingness of institutional partners and their faculty to commit time and energy to the

activities. We are looking forward to developing sufficient resources to enable the use of

ELIXR resources in faculty development workshops and programs in the next year, with

subsequent evaluation and revision. Beyond this planned evolution of models, processes

and tools, we foresee only modest changes to the project plan. Our presentations to other

potential partners have generated strong interest, and we remain confident that a

sustainable social and technology infrastructure will be achieved as a project outcome.

Progress Toward Accomplishing Objectives

Since initiating the ELIXR project in October 2006, we have accomplished the following:

Themes: 5 teaching innovation topic Theme have been selected by the faculty

development units as of particular importance within their institutions:

      Universal Design for Learning

      Active Learning in Large Lecture Classes – this was the topic Theme for the

       prototype case story developed with CSU Long Beach on Active Learning in

       Organic Chemistry Classes

      The “New Basics” (including Visual Literacy and Innovation Literacy)

      Assurance of Learning.
From our original target of 6 topic Themes, one remains to be determined. However, we

now anticipate that the original target of 16 Case Stories and 6 Themes may evolve into a

larger number of Themes and (initially) a smaller number of Case Stories per Theme.

In addition, Case Stories in the following additional topic Theme pilot studies have been

initiated by our partners. Each represents an extension beyond our original conception of

ELIXR Themes, and each re-uses the ELIXR tools and expertise in an extended context:

       Faculty Learning Communities – this „meta‟ Theme was identified as of

        importance because many of the faculty development programs in which ELIXR

        resources would be employed will use faculty learning communities as a key


       Creating Effective Learning Designs for the 1st Day of Class – this „mini‟ Theme

        was identified as the most common faculty development need for newer faculty


       Integrative Learning – ELIXR Case Stories were originally conceived as

        presenting discipline-oriented exemplars for the implementation of a teaching

        innovation. This endeavor will test the applicability of ELIXR models, products

        and expertise in inter-disciplinary contexts.

Case Stories: Our original target for the initial year of development was for 16 Case

Stories to be completed by December 2007. As of June 2007, 18 Case Stories have been

identified and are in various stages of development. The Themes, host partners, faculty
authors and disciplines are listed on the Projects page of the ELIXR collaborative

webspace at http://elixr.melrot.org

Tools: preliminary versions of the following tools and documents are available on the

Products page of the ELIXR webspace:

      ELIXR Case Story Shell Example and ELIXR Case Story Shell Structure

      Faculty Guide to Authoring an ELIXR Case Story (draft 05/01/07)

      Supporting Authors of ELIXR Case Stories - Faculty Development (05/01/07)

      Supporting Authors of ELIXR Case Stories – Digital Media (05/01/07)

      Guide to Faculty Development using ELIXR Case Stories (05/17/07)

      Media Production Guide for ELIXR Case Stories (05/01/07)

Collaborations: two meetings of the ELIXR Executive Committee of Project Leaders

from each partner institution have been held, one as a teleconference and one face-to-face

in Atlanta GA in January 2007, including representatives from the California State

University (project team and campuses), the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher

Education, the University System of Georgia, the Minnesota State Colleges and

Universities, Ohio State University, Brigham Young University and the Science

Education Research Center. The project team has visited the remaining two institutional

partners (Coastline Community College and Indiana State University) and all 9 partner

campuses within the CalState system. The CalState partners have also held three internal

face-to-face meetings in conjunction with other CalState events.
Dissemination: in addition to various presentations for the ELIXR community and

within our partner systems and institutions, five public presentations featuring the ELIXR

project have occurred to date (PODNetwork, October 06; International Society for the

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, November 06; EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative,

January 06; New Media Consortium and SoCal Faculty Development Forum, June 06)

Administrative: since project startup, we have accomplished the following tasks:

      Filled all staff positions (final staff member expected to join project in July 2007);

      Obtained Institutional Review Board approval for the ELIXR activities at one

       pilot institution – California State University, Long Beach – and begun to

       disseminate the requisite documentation to other partner sites;

      Employed the DoE Subaward Template distributed in April 2007 to prepare

       Subaward agreements for CSU campuses, one pilot non-CSU partner (University

       of West Georgia), and one repository partner (Science Research Center/Teach the

       Earth). We expect these to be completed in July 2007, with dissemination to other

       partners and completed agreements for case story projects in September 2007.


Usage tests of the prototype ELIXR Case Story have taken place with instructors from

the relevant discipline (Chemistry) at two partner institutions. The results of these tests

are being applied to further case story designs and to the ELIXR tool developments. For

example, we are currently revising our design guidance around the complementary roles
of text, video, a narrator, etc. Further information is available on the Evaluation page of

the ELIXR collaborative webspace.

We are planning the first evaluation for application of ELIXR Case Stories in faculty

development in Fall 07, using the 1st Day of Class topic Theme.

Reflections on “Lessons Learned”

We had not fully anticipated the extent to which our partner faculty development units

would select as topic Themes those emerging areas which were becoming institutional

priorities to improve teaching and learning (and consequently, where they did not yet

have exemplary practitioners). One positive result of this is that we are positioned to

capture the process stories more effectively. On the other hand, our original project plan

allowed for case story development on existing exemplars of teaching innovation,

without elapsed time for the innovations themselves to be learned and implemented by

faculty. We expect this lag in completing planned case stories will only be a factor in the

short term, and by applying of the pilot study topic Themes we expect to be able evaluate

the first ELIXR-enabled faculty development activities in 2007 as planned.

The emergence of pilot study topic Themes is one instance of the need for flexibility in

accommodating institutional and system needs and priorities. While this makes the

project more complex – our initial conception was for only one or two Themes in the

initial year of development - the tradeoff is an increase in social capital and thus a better

value proposition for sustainability
We are acquiring an enhanced understanding of how the power of digital story telling can

be applied to engage faculty with teaching innovations. For example, we had not

appreciated the issues around integrating the different story components – the product

story showing the teaching innovation in use and its impacts on student learning, the

process story showing the development of the new learning design and resources to

implement the innovation in a particular course, and the personal story about the larger

meaning of these events for the faculty member and students involved. As our own

understanding evolves, there are also broader issues emerging about how much of this

expertise can be effective disseminated and applied by partner institutions and faculty.

We have found it particularly useful to return to the original conceptual model of faculty

adoption of teaching innovations, the Concerns-Based Adoption Model, and to interpret

the initial testing results in the light of this framework. It is not clear how we could have

applied this framework more proactively in the design stage.

We had not fully appreciated the lack of practical exemplars to translate the vast

knowledge base on design of faculty development activities into a particular institutional

context, e.g. the equivalent of lessons plans and templates for workshops and programs. It

is also obvious in retrospect that our original language for ELIXR application in faculty

development centered on one-time events such as workshops, whereas we are now more

explicit about the need for longer term faculty development programs utilizing a broader

range of activities (e.g., faculty learning communities).
Changes Proposed for 2007-08

A key component of the ELIXR plan is to incorporate ongoing improvements in the

design and development processes for Case Stories and their application. Beyond that

planned evolution, only modest changes are contemplated in the next year:

      We had originally planned for two staff positions, .25 FTE each, to do Web

   Development within the two repository partners (MERLOT and Teach the Earth). It

   is now our judgment that the website integration undertaken by the SERC team for

   Teach the Earth should port easily to the MERLOT repository, based on an ongoing

   partnership to share facilities for pedagogic services. At the same time, we are aware

   that the number of case stories planned for 2008 and 2009 escalates dramatically. We

   are therefore intending to convert one .25 FTE position into a Faculty Support

   Coordinator role to serve as a liaison between the project leads and the faculty

   authoring case stories.

      We have found web seminars with our partners to be an acceptable form of

   interacting with a widely distributed group. We expect to replace some of our planned

   face-to-face events with more frequent web seminars to support case story

   development and application.

      We do not yet have a process for providing formative feedback on individual case

   stories, and will have to establish this as part of the work plan in 2007-08.

Project leader Dr. Thomas Carey has been on secondment from the University of

Waterloo in Canada to the CalState system office for the past two years. In September

2007 he will be splitting his time between the two institutions. His .2 FTE time
assignment as part of the project cost sharing will continue, and his ongoing leadership

will be supported by both institutions.


We are encouraged by our progress to date toward sustainability after the grant period.

Several institutions have expressed interest in developing ELIXR case stories without

grant support, although we are not yet in a position to support such activities. As noted

above, a few of the initial case stories currently under development reflect productive

extensions to our original conception for Themes within the project, and this active

engagement in determining directions for the project is also a positive sign for future


Some preliminary issues regarding our sustainability plans have also begun to emerge:

       Overall resource constraints within an institution will be an important factor in

        future sustainability after the grant period. Some of this has to do with

        institutional size – large institutions have more resources available for faculty

        development and therefore more discretionary room for faculty development units

        to commit to ELIXR activities. Some of this resource factor also has to do with

        institutional mission and positioning, e.g., community college partners have more

        difficulty finding cost share contributions for ELIXR activities than do research

        universities. Amongst system partners, the extent to which faculty development

        has a strong presence within the system office appears to also be a factor.
      It appears that we may need to invest more effort in building up a leadership

       infrastructure for sustainability. Our partners have invested considerable time in

       the activities taking place within their systems and institutions; we have yet

       identified governance processes which would evolve toward a sustainable

       Executive Committee to provide leadership and governance. This may be a

       byproduct of the early stage of the project, of the role expectations placed on the

       current project leaders, or of a lack of focus on this issue by the project leaders.

Overall, our initial project year has been enthusiastically received by our multiple

partners and by future participants. Our contributing faculty have been eager to

participate, and the faculty development units have actively engaged with our plans.

The evaluations to date on the prototypes have been very instructive. Our

interactions with FIPSE program officers have been valuable and supportive. We

look forward to our ongoing interactions and further project success.

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