Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Cross-boundary use of learning resources in LeMill

LeMill ( is a web community for finding, authoring and sharing learning resources. It is divided to four sections: Content, Methods, Tools and Community. The main target audience is primary and secondary school teachers, but anyone can join. It is a wiki-like system where all the learning resources are published under open licence and can be edited by other members.

Registered users can publish learning content, and descriptions of educational methods and tools. Users can also create their own Collections of learning resources. About 10% of LeMill users have created collections (users total based on March 15 2008), this represents 188 users (data snapshot May 30 2008).

Collections are good for "Keeping found things found", the nice resources that you find in LeMill can be easily put in a collection. Another important thing is that Collections can be used to make content units or thematic lessons. Collections are actually folders that you give a name, you can make as many collections as you want.

For me the Collections tool is interesting. It's the whole thing about what content do users find interesting enough so that they want to keep it.

In Table 1 you can find the description of the data that I use for this study. I give quickly some descriptive statistics about it, and then drill into the Cross-Boundary use of learning resources. This this I mean that the user comes from a different country than the resource (cross-country) or the resource is in a different language than that of the user’s mother tongue (cross-language). If resource comes from a different country and is in a differnt language, then it's a cross-border resource. I'll give examples of this later to make it more clear.

What's in Collections?

Users had saved 1645 resources in 376 collections. There is 4.4 resources on the average in each collections. Some Collections are huge, the biggest has 82 resources in it, whereas the median is 2 resources.

When we look at how the users have used this feature, we find a wide variety of cases. Just by looking at numbers, the most active user had 94 resources in Collections, whereas the average is 8,75 resources. Median is 3, so as usual, we have a group of very active users (30% above average) and lots of not-so-active users of this functionality.

When we look at the resources in Collections, we find that there are 1387 different resources. 13% of the resources exist in more than one collection, but most of the resources (1205) are put to only one Collection. Not much of an overlap there, which is a bit surprising seen the fact that other users' Collections are public, so I can easily go and see the lessons created by others. There are nice pivotal navigational features that allow me to click on the other user's name and see their Collections. To my dismay, though, I noticed that it is not very easy to add resources from other users' Collection to mine, which might hinder the reuse a bit.

Who uses Collections?

The cool thing about LeMill is that their user-base is a total fruit bowl. There are users registered from all over, in this dataset we have 22 countries. The top number of Collections are Estonians, that's 45% of all resources in Collections. Others are Lithuania (14%), n/a (14%), Hungary (9%), and so on.

Where do resources come from in Collections?

It seems like most Estonians put resources made by another Estonian in their collections (48.5%). Then we have n/a "country" (13.2%), resources from Lithuania (11.4%), from Finland (7.5%), Hungary (6.6%), resources from Georgia (6.2%) and so on.

What about resources originating from different countries than the user? The case of crossing boundaries.

About 40% of Collection users are Cross-Boundary users (74). You can see this at the lower part of the 2nd Table above. I was able to calculate this by looking into the resources that they have put in their Collections. I found out that every fourth (419) resource in Collections crosses some boundaries, either language or country boundaries. Let's look at this in more details (Table here on the left).

1st Case are Cross-border resources: the resource comes from a different country than the user and is also in a different language than the mother tongue. 28% of the cases were like this.

: a German resource from a German teacher that a Finnish teacher has put in his Collection.

2nd Case is about crossing language borders. Most cases (76%) represent resources that are in a different language than the mother tongue of the user is. Many of these resources are in English (63%) even if they are not created by an English native speaker.

: Let's say an Estonian teacher has made a learning resource in English and put it in her own Collection.

3rd Case: Cross-country resource. These are resources that are in the user's mother tongue, but come from a different country. Much less of those, only less than 5%.

Example: A resource in English made by an American and put in a Collection by a Canadian. Or it could be a German resource added into a Collection by an Austrian teacher.

So are there any commonalities in this?

In LeMill, it looks like most cross-boundary actions (i.e. resources put in Collections) are within users' language skills (lower part of the Table on the left). You'd be surprised to learn the language skills these teachers have! Most of them have one additional language on top of their mother tongue, but many of them boast 3 or 4. This results that most of the 352/419 cross-boundary resources in collections are within Foreign language skills of these users. That's 84%.

Naturally, one is curious to know what those remaining 16% of resources are?
Actually, a bit disapointingly, there were little surprise (and very little of evidence on my last post on "Vygotsky's psychological tools". Many of these resources were in English, most likely the user had forgotten to mention that s/he masters this lingua franca. Remaining were either with no text or multimedia, some resources I was not able to locate in LeMill anymore. I put some of them in my Travel Well Collection.

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