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MERLOT II

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Peer Review


Connexions

by Joel Thierstein
 

Ratings

Overall Numeric Rating:

4.75 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.5 stars
Reviewed: Dec 01, 2008 by Music
Overview: Connexions is an online repository of full courses (called ‘collections’), individual course modules, or stand-alone learning activities, covering a large variety of disciplines. The numerous items related to music are listed under “Arts” (see http://cnx.org/content/browse_content/subject/Arts ) with 13 of the 17 “collections” and ~1/3 of the >400 modules addressing music or sound related topics. Acoustics related items are also found under “Science and Technology” (see http://cnx.org/content/#subject/Science%20and%20Technology ) The high quality and learning impact of the site was recently recognized through Harvard University's Berkman Award (Berkman Center for Internet & Society), presented to Connexions founder and Rice University professor R. Baraniuk for his role in creating the repository. Contributors are academics, creating content that, in its vast majority, is accurate, well presented and supported by references to relevant literature, and occasionally enhanced through multimedia resources. Although not formally peer reviewed, the collections are monitored by an editorial team and an oversight board, helping maintain high content standards. The learning impact and sustainability of this and other open educational resource repositories are addressed in a recent article from the Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects (see http://ijklo.org/Volume4/IJELLOv4p191-204Monge.pdf ). Finally, following a recent partnership with the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineerings (IEEE), Connexions will be developing a set of signal processing educational modules and courses that will be available for free access. Highly recommended resource!
Type of Material: Open educational resource repository. Collection of full online course materials, course modules, and stand-alone learning activities. The modular nature of most full courses permits users to combine portions of the site into separate custom courses.
Recommended Uses: Endless possible uses in-class, and in homework assignments, both in individual and group contexts. For maximum effectiveness, instructors should mix and match modules and activities from multiple collections, and possibly supplement them with additional (especially multimedia) materials. Faculty can also use this site to contribute their own courses/modules (registration required).
Technical Requirements: Latest I.E. or Firefox browser. Depending on subject area, special plug-ins may be required. All such plug-ins can be directly downloaded from the relevant learning object’s page.
Identify Major Learning Goals: The site provides access to high quality courses, course modules, and stand-alone learning activities in numerous disciplines. Connexions holdings are often linked to relevant course websites within the authors’ academic institutions, providing additional resources and context for the understanding of the materials.
Target Student Population: College and, with additional direction, high school students
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Basic web navigation and search skills.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Well researched, organized, presented, and updated courses, modules, and learning activities.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Materials and learning activities are very well aligned, while remaining modular for flexibility in course customization.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: Although usability features change with each course and contributor, all Connexions courses/modules checked are clearly organized and very easy to use. The repository itself is also very well and cleanly organized, visually appealing, and with clear instructions for use, when necessary.
Concerns: Many of the modules are based on published materials that can be purchased separately. Creative Commons licenses cover the modules that are posted on this site. However, the module may necessitate the purchase of the text on which the module is based. Most modules are general in nature enough that the original source may not be needed.