Perspectives from the Classroom: MELO's Organic Chemistry efforts

This is the third blog post in the series of updates about the MELO 3D project on our campus. Click here to read the first post to learn more about the project and our involvement with it.

Dr. Ginger Shultz and her MELO team (Grace and Renata) created a very comprehensive and ambitious plan for developing, integrating, and assessing Learning Objects into their Organic Chemistry course. Like the Spanish department, Dr. Shultz uses content that has been co-created in the University of Michigan Chemistry department and her classes often have trouble with sticky issues. Many times, they start her courses lacking basic math or science skills that would otherwise enable them to engage in the classroom at the appropriate level.

With the help of her teaching team, Dr. Shultz developed a website featuring open access Learning Objects from other universities, a blog, and incorporated the use of VoiceThread into their classroom assignments. While they are using technology and platforms on the open web, they have integrated this into U-M’s Learning Management System, CTools, where they are able to track student use. By using both LMS and open platforms, they can contribute these resources to learners outside of U-M and measure the impact of these resources in their own classrooms. They provided students with basic resources to help them build the skills they needed to start succeeding in the classroom through access to outside institutional Learning Objects. They also used videos to teach students how to use ChemDraw, the documentation tool used in the class. These additional resources enabled the teaching team to give all students access to a variety of resources, tutorials, and support to lower the barrier to classroom success.

By inviting students to use VoiceThread to provide an explanation to a problem, the Organic Chemistry MELO team took a huge step toward reducing barriers to participation and active learning in their large introductory course. They offered this as an “opportunity” to make the videos, fostering an opportunity to engage in a more comfortable setting for students. Grace provided an example of how a “peer-expert” (a higher level student in the field) would explain the answer to a problem, giving students guidelines for their own answers. Through this use of technology, Grace is able to teach students how to use ChemDraw and to explain a problem simultaneously. Exemplary videos are then shown in class, encouraging competition to do well and encouraging students to speak up in class. Students have been innovating using this tool by creating skits, commenting on each others’ responses and supporting each other’s learning experiences outside of class.

Through the use of surveys given at intervals during the semester, Dr. Shultz and her teaching class have seen an increase in grades for the students who used the Learning Objects as compared with other sections of Organic Chemistry in which students were not given access to these resources.

Perspectives from the Classroom, MELO's Spanish efforts

This is the second blog post in the series of updates about the MELO 3D project on our campus. Click here to read the first post to learn more about the project and our involvement with it.


Tatiana Calixto must incorporate her classes into the larger academic organization of the Spanish program at the University of Michigan. Often she uses content that has been co-created by colleagues but needs to be adapted to specific classroom needs. She usually doesn’t have access to an “enhanced” classroom with technology so any use of digital content or Internet resources in the classroom must be planned carefully. Much of the work that is done in the classroom focuses on developing Spanish speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills. In order to address the need of her students to review content, practice it, and access it outside of the classroom, Dr. Calixto developed a series of podcasts and clips taken from movies (that rely heavily on Fair Use) to help her students practice concepts learned in class right before midterms and other tests.

The Learning Objects that include movie clips incorporate very important context into the lesson objectives. By offering this, Dr. Calixto can engage students beyond just clicking on content, but by watching a scene unfold and understanding how the language describes actions, intent, and events. With this content, students are able to see which sentences and verbs describe the scene.

In order to address difficult concepts that are relatively standardized (grammar and grammar rules), Dr. Calixto created a website that students can access anywhere they have Internet access. Before these podcasts were created, many students were using office hours to ask the same questions over and over. Now the podcasts serve to address this gap in learning, allowing students to access them outside of the classroom with the opportunity to stop, rewind, practice, and review. Dr. Calixto created this website with content she created, based on her experiences with students at U-M. She licensed all of this content, however, so that other Spanish teachers across institutions can access and use the podcasts to support their classrooms. Students at other schools can use these podcasts as well.

Perspectives from the Classroom: An update on the MELO 3D project

Open.Michigan has been supporting the MELO 3D project, an interdisciplinary project that focuses on using learning objects, technology tools, open educational practices and assessment to more effectively support student-centered learning in large gateway courses at the University of Michigan. The MELO 3D project comes from participants in MERLOT, a community-focused repository of learning objects and other open and free resources for teachers across universities.

After a semester of integrating specifically adapted or developed learning objects into their classrooms, some of the newest disciplinary additions to the MELO project shared their experiences. Members of the Organic Chemistry, History, and Spanish teams talked about their classroom needs and how they addressed student learning by using technology and Learning Objects in new and exciting ways. This was a very invigorating meeting, where faculty expressed their excitement over using all kinds of new tools to help students.

Each example showcases the innovation, excitement and capacity for change this project has had in the gateway course classrooms at the University of Michigan. By incorporating openly licensed or open access materials and distributed and participatory technological tools and platforms, participating MELO faculty members are able to focus on pedagogy, student engagement, and successful learning outcomes. As a result, they are serving their students more effectively and successfully.

This first post, in a series of three, features the outcomes to date from the History participants.

Continue reading

Open Education Week Video Mashup – Ups and Downs of the YouTube Video Editor

I’ve always been curious about the YouTube Video Editor and the “Remix this video!” button, but I never really had a reason, or the motivation to give it a try. That is, until I was inspired by all of the great videos created by fellow Open Education Week advocates.

So in the spirit of Open Education Week (connecting, collecting, creating, and sharing) I’ll highlight some of the ups and downs of the editor that I encountered while creating this YouTube Video Editor mashup:


  • It’s really nice to have so much content to remix in one place. Access to large quantities of openly licensed content in one location and from all over the world appears (to me at least) to be an important piece of the “getting people to use it” OER puzzle.
  • The user-interface is straightforward and easy to interact with. You can quickly scan through your own collection of videos, search for openly licensed content, find music to add to your video, and add effects and titles. I didn’t use any effects or titles though, so I can’t speak to those features, but it looked easy enough to get started with them.
  • Dragging clips into the editing timeline is easy, and so is trimming selected videos. You simply click and drag the ends of clips to adjust their timing.
  • After several hours of clicking and dragging video clips, you hit the publish button and then you get your own customized YouTube video creation.


  • I wasn’t able to select a Creative Commons license for the remix. Maybe this is related to the song I used, or perhaps it’s related to YouTube automatically placing advertisements on videos created with this tool. I’m not sure, but it would have been nice if others could remix this remix.
  • You can’t do a whole lot to adjust the volume of individual clips, or the music. Unless I missed something, (I really looked around though) you can’t tweak the audio of individual clips. This is really frustrating because the volume of each video varies greatly across all of the clips. You can’t really adjust the volume of the music either, and you are only given 4 sound adjustment options: Only music, favor music, equal, and favor original audio. Keeping it simple like this is nice, but a few more options would go a long way.
  • Generally speaking, video editing is a time-consuming task. So I was surprised to notice that there isn’t a way to save different versions of the video. Having an easy way to undo or revert changes is a huge time saver; its unfortunate the editor does not provide this functionality.
  • Lastly, once you’ve hit the publish button, your project is removed from the editor. I suppose you can edit your videos in various different locations in the YouTube interface, but I grew attached to my timeline, and wanted to show it off.

All of the downers aside – having access to a large library of openly licensed videos, coupled with the ability to quickly and easily edit videos on the web, is fantastic. A video editing tool that is more in tune with the open educational resources movement, has a better understanding of open licenses, and a few more functions (especially audio options!) would be an extremely useful tool for educators with an interest in remixing videos for educational purposes.

It's Open Education Week!

Open Education Week

It’s Open Education Week (5-10 March 2012)! We’re joining our colleagues around the world to increase understanding about open education, and promote awareness and use of academic materials that can be reused by teachers and learners globally.

Here in Ann Arbor, we are hosting a free lunchtime showing of Truth in Numbers? Everything According to Wikipedia, along with our co-sponsors MLibrary and the Michigan Wikipedians. The film showing will be followed by discussion with U-M Wikipedians, where you can learn more about how to use Wikipedia in the classroom or to increase the reach of your collections or research.  Pizza will be provided!

Date: Thursday, March 8 at noon
Location: Shapiro Library room 2160

Please tell your friends and colleagues.  We hope to see you there!