Laura Franklin is MERLOT’s World Language Editor as well as a French Professor at Northern Virginia Community College.
In this interview Laura Franklin discusses her involvement with MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching).
Adrienne Gonzales: Can you introduce yourself?
Laura Franklin: Yes, you probably know that in addition to being the Editor of MERLOT World Languages since 2000, I am also on the Board of Directors of ACTFL, representing the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. My daytime job at Northern Virginia Community College has me teaching French 101,102, 201 and 202, all four courses completely online. I am also very involved in Global Studies and everything international, including study abroad.
Adrienne Gonzales: What is MERLOT?
Laura Franklin: My online classes all make use of the MERLOT repository’s free online learning objects to promote listening, speaking, reading and writing. The feature that sets MERLOT apart from other collections is its mature Peer Review process. Language practitioners from across the country and around the world help MERLOT identify those learning objects that need to rise to the top of the “hit list” due to their high quality. Learning materials are judged on three criteria: Quality of Content, Potential Effectiveness for Teaching and Learning and Ease of Use. For each learning material under review, two peer reviewers bestow five stars on truly exemplary items, four stars for objects that are very good, and three stars for objects that meet minimal standards for peer review recognition. Many disciplines, including World Languages, have long established Editorial Boards that determine the discipline-specific criteria for excellence. These professionals are trained by MERLOT and attend the online training called Grape Camp. The reviewers are selected based on their frequent use of online materials in teaching and learning. They are also active in the World Languages profession and understand our standards-based approach to language instruction.
Adrienne Gonzales: What is your role with MERLOT?
Laura Franklin: My role as Editor is to be sure that the World Languages collection contains the most complete, accurate and relevant World Language learning materials that exist on the Internet today. Some people refer to MERLOT as an advanced search device, but it is so much more than that. It reflects the participation of a language community that loves to share free and open educational resources for the benefit of users worldwide. Everyone is invited to make use of its regularly-triaged collections. Everyone can make comments on its materials and organize annotated Personal Collections within the MERLOT website. Some of my day-to day activities include finding new materials, submitting them to MERLOT, doing Composite peer reviews, selecting truly exemplary materials for the best of MEROT in a given year and finding qualified peer reviewers to review the many quality items in our growing collection. This last part is a particular challenge, as World Languages is the largest collection in the Humanities.
Adrienne Gonzales: How did you become involved?
Laura Franklin: I was extremely pleased to serve the Virginia Community College system as a volunteer to work on the MERLOT project in the year 2000. At that time, I was selected as a Co-Chair with my colleague, Carla Meskill, from SUNY-Albany. Together, we crafted the practices and procedures of our Discipline team which at that time included numerous faculty members in WL, many of whom were supported by colleges and universities across the country. As years went by, the number of MERLOT discipline communities grew with MERLOT World Languages retaining its reputation as a very active community. To this day, MERLOT World Languages maintains a very dedicated Editorial Board.
Adrienne Gonzales: Can you talk a little bit about some of the recent changes at MERLOT (MERLOT II) and why those changes were initiated?
Laura Franklin: MERLOT II brings a fresh, 21st century look to the website. It is designed for quick access to the materials and services that MERLOT provides. Users want to get to the features they want quickly and easily. The new MERLOT provides this service to users.
Adrienne Gonzales: What’s coming in the future for MERLOT?
Laura Franklin: As World Languages Editor, my role is to adequately reflect our diverse language community. I see it as critical to involve more speakers of less-commonly taught languages (LCTLs) on our review teams. There are very fine and useful web-based materials among the LCTLs and we need to make those resources more visible in our collections. This is a high priority in my mind. I am also interested in opening a dialogue on the review process for online language courses. As these become more widespread, the profession needs to get together on what really constitutes exemplary practice.
Adrienne Gonzales: How can language teachers get involved?
Laura Franklin: Language instructors who would like to conduct peer reviews for MERLOT should begin by joining MERLOT. They should then write and submit user comments about a few items that are not already peer-reviewed in MERLOT. The reviewed materials should be exemplary and worthy of distinction within our collection. The user comments should describe the Quality of Content, Potential Effectiveness for Teaching and Learning and Ease of use separately. Once the comments are written, the authors should send them to me in an email at email@example.com. I will review them and respond to the authors about the potential of future reviews. Reviewers will want to sign up for Grape Camp in order to learn the “nuts and bolts” of MERLOT Peer Review before reviewing.