Saturday, March 12, 2005

Learning Objects and Their Difficulties

Play the audio file (podcast).

It would be almost impossible to overstate the amount of hype that has gone into the subject of learning objects.

The confusion is interesting because very few people agree on what a learning object is, and even fewer consistently use the same language to describe them.

When searching for "learning objects," one is likely to encounter a vast array of terms and ways to describe them. Terms include knowledge objects, educational objects, knowledge chunks, digital objects, digital educational computer programs, Flash-exercises - on and on.

Once one has untangled the nomenclature problem, one can go to the various repositories. Repositories can look like directories, with large databases that link out to the actual location of the object. Other repositories have a search function that allows one to go out and retrieve objects from archives they maintain on their own servers.

Problem 1---Not really interchangeable

Problem 2---Can't find them (lack of consistent classification schemes)

Problem 3---Quality is highly variable, despite the attempts of some to institute peer review, or quality criteria.

How do I find learning objects I can use and/or share?

Large repositories of learning objects are now available from MERLOT, CAREO, and Wisconline, among others.

NMC, the New Media Consortium, is an international 501(c)3 not-for-profit consortium of approximately 200 colleges, universities, museums, corporations, and other learning-and education based organizations that use new media and new technologies.

The following bullet list of challenges presents issues.

1---Hard to figure out how to use them.

2---Hard to find the "object" you need.

3---If they are a link to an object on someone's website, the link could be dead. If you're using it in CD-ROM or for PDA-delivery, they can be useless.

4---Not centrally housed. The repositories do not refer to each other and do not cross-catalogue. There is redundancy, inconsistency, and they are often out of date.

5---No standardization.

Why do instructional design and planning matter?

Before using a learning object, learning objectives, desired learner outcomes (performative and measurable), range of content and learner level, and instructional strategies must be in place.

In addition, all the technological issues must be worked out.

What platform will be used?

Will a learning management system be used?

Will this be a live web-based course? What kinds of access will the students have?

Will it be offered in CD-ROM format? Will you use PDAs or hand-held computers?

These have to be considered because it is very difficult to retrofit an object once it is incorporated into a learning module.

Finally, learning objects can (if utilized properly) be wonderful ways to enhance learner self-efficacy and self-concept, as well as to improve learner self-regulation in the quest for effective, flexible, and adaptable learning strategies.

Useful References

Alivetek learning objects for natural and social sciences.

American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), and SmartForce. (2002) A field guide to learning objects. ASTD online booklet.

Braxton, B. (2003). "Learning objects." Response posted.

Campus of Alberta Repository of Educational Objects.

Clyde, Laurel A. (2004) "Digital Learning Objects" April 2004.

Downes, S. (2002). "Design and reusability of learning objects in an academic context: A new economy of education?" Conference paper.

Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT).

Wiley, D. (2000). Connecting learning objects to instructional design theory: A definition, a metaphor, and a taxonomy.

Wisconsin Online Resource Center.

Yacovelli, S. (2004). "Understanding learning objects: The basic 'chunks'" College and University Media Review. Winter 2003-2004: pp. 17-26.

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