Tag Archives: materials

Studio Usage Heat Map

studio usage heat map - by day

If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve been working to pull together a recording studio on a budget. Our first step was clearing out the old office that was destined to become the studio, work on minimizing the echo in the room, and painting one wall Sparkling Apple to use as a green screen. This is where our first $100 went. Next, we spent another $50 or so to light both the green screen and the talent in front of it. I’m currently working on sorting out the best solution for audio and video. (Stay tuned for updates!)

Fortunately, the lack of A/V equipment hasn’t prevented our staff from using the studio.  In fact, since the doors first opened in July, it has seen over 150 hours of use.  At this point, it is interesting to look at the patterns of usage that have emerged. Thus, the heat map, above.

To make the heat map, I added a “1” to each half-hour timeslot that the studio was reserved each week in an Excel spreadsheet. I then color-coded the data in the sheet with hotter colors reflecting higher numbers. The colors help to visualize trends in usage. For example, usage increases as the week goes on with Thursday and Friday afternoons appearing in oranges and reds. In contrast, there are times early on Monday and Tuesday that have never been reserved.

Studio usage heat map - by weekI also have a heat map that compresses all of the days into one, which I made by totaling the times for each half-hour block on the spreadsheet and then color-coding it. Click to enlarge it. Again, it’s pretty easy to see the studio warm up as the day goes on, indicating increased usage.  Having a couple of regular evening reservations also contributes to this pattern.

Color coding numbers in a spreadsheet isn’t rocket science, but it is an easy way to visualize the data to quickly get a read on the studio. And, I can see that I’m going to have to start coming in earlier on Mondays if I want to use the studio.

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MERLOT: Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching

Search MERLOT for online resources.

Search MERLOT for online resources.

I came across MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) in a TELR workshop recently.  I’ve been thinking about how ESL classes could be moved online and MERLOT was suggested as a place I might find some learning objects (reusable components of an online course).

While it wasn’t quite as simple as that, I did find a number of good resources.  One qualification: like many online resources, MERLOT does have some dead links and out-of-date activities, but at least there were plenty to choose from.  Try a search for “English grammar” and you’ll find lots of materials and promising leads.  The bad news is that it all feels a little like Yahoo circa 1996.  Although there are options for users to rate items, this system is not widely used and, in some cases, possibly outdated.  Many of the materials appear the be the work of single teachers doing yeoman’s work to create textbooks from scratch (Net Grammar), clearinghouses for their online materials (Edict Virtual Language Center), and drill-and-kill exerices and quizzes (English Works!, Interactive Quizzes at Capital Community College’s Guide to Grammar and Writing).

Although MERLOT makes an attempt to organize these resources, one still has to do some pretty deep wading to find useful resources.  A search returns a list, like Yahoo once did.  What is needed is something more Google-like: an algorithm-based system for sorting the wheat from the chaff.  Even better would be a proliferation of intelligent CALL (ICALL) materials (like WERTi) that would include tools to create exercises from existing content.  This is more a criticism of ESL CALL materials in general, than it is of MERLOT.  Unfortunately, we’re not there yet.

Find something you like on MERLOT?  Leave a comment and share it.

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