My MediaKron Experiment in E-Learning

This semester I am collaborating with one of the Boston College Higher Education faculty members, Ana Martinez Aleman, on a new technology e-learning project called “MediaKron” for her Higher Education in American Society course. MediaKron is an online multimedia platform that was developed at Boston College as a means of presenting and enhancing course content. The College received funding from the Davis Educational Foundation, and after an initial pilot of the program, it is now collaborating with other higher education institutions to develop their own projects off the platform.

What is MediaKron?
MediaKron is a multimedia platform that enables instructors to input their own “data” and connect it in unique ways. You might think of it as an updated version of the multimedia CD-ROM that was in vogue in the 1990s, but with all of the sophistication, internet-enabled enhancements, and social sharing of the Web 2.0 age. It is also similar to projects such as Ted-Ed (although far more sophisticated in what it can do). The MediaKron website itself describes the project as:

“…an online tool for presenting and exploring multimedia course content. It provides an easy way for instructors to upload and organize a variety of instructional materials and enables students to explore this content from a web browser. Each object entered into the database can have a variety of metadata attached to it, including topics, tags, geographic location, and date. Each type of metadata corresponds to a different interface in MediaKron, enabling instructors to create variety of pathways for organizing content. Topics create sequentially ordered slideshows, tags enable items to be flexibly grouped with several different kinds of related items, locations allow items to show up on a map, and dates put items on a timeline to create a visual representation of chronology. In this way, multiple relationships can be created among items and users have control over viewing content differently as they navigate through the interfaces, filtering content in a variety of ways.” (link)

If you’re interested in seeing some examples of MediaKron in action, you can see a video demonstration off their main page (sorry there is no direct link or embeddable video) or check out their static course showcase page.

Why this course?
Of course, some courses may lend themselves better to this type of e-learning treatment than others. The Higher Education in American Society course is a blend of the history and sociology of American higher education. What MediaKron will allow us to do is connect historical videos, pictures, and data in a more interactive way. You can view the information in multiple formats, including linearly, like a book, or via a timeline or map view. For example, if we’re discussing HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), students could pull up a map and see the geographic distribution of these institutions and click on each to learn more. Similarly, students could navigate a timeline to explore the rapid expansion of American higher education in the twentieth century. They could view videos of the social movements and student protests of the 1960s within the context in which they occurred. The possibilities are endless.

What will it “do?” How will it enhance the course?
The MediaKron site is meant to supplement the traditional classroom course, not replace it. In essence, we hope it will serve as an “interactive text” that encourages students to actively explore the topics in the course and provide them with a richer context within which to understand concepts and ideas. We’re hoping that MediaKron allows us to move beyond presenting students with a decontextualized list of web links and towards the promise of Web 2.0-enabled interactive learning.

Of course, the success of this project largely rests on our ability to populate the site with compelling content. That will be the challenge we confront this semester. As it progresses, I hope to keep you updated on our progress.

If you’re interested in potentially implementing MediaKron at your institution, you can contact Boston College here. Although the initial call for proposals ended in December 2011, there may be opportunities for you to experiment with the platform in the future. They are constantly trying to improve on it and expand its capabilities.