During the seven years of the TeleLearning NCE, the use of Web tech-nologies for on-line learning has found widespread adoption. Learnersand instructors find the Web a convenient medium for educational andadministrative transactions and have spurred an unprecedented invest-ment in time and resources in the creation of materials and network infrastructure for distance and augmented learning. Digital learning ob- jects are the computer files that store graphics, lessons, animations, andother computer-mediated activities that constitute the content and processactivities of on-line learning. As knowledge assets in an e-learningeconomy, they represent an ever-increasing store of intellectual propertyand educational capability. Although many learning objects could be re-used in different instructional contexts, much of this investment is used forhighly specific audiences and remains unknown beyond the immediatecreators and consumers.Repositories are built on database technology, but seek to go beyondsimple warehousing to provide mechanisms to encourage the discovery,exchange, and reuse of learning objects. This article describes the evolu-tion of Portals for On-line Objects in Learning (POOL), a consortiumproject of the TeleLearning NCE, and chronicles the lessons learned in ourefforts to build a learning object repository scalable to the national level.Funded in part by the CANARIE Learning Program, POOL has contrib-uted to the development of two enabling technologies: “POOL, PONDand SPLASH,” a distributed architecture for a peer-to-peer network of variously sized learning object repositories; and CanCore, a practicalmetadata protocol for cataloguing learning objects.
Learning Objects: the Building Blocks of E-Learning
Although their definition varies among authors and organizations, learn-ing objects are essentially the digital files that are used to generate e-learn-ing activities. They include audiovisual media files, Java applets, andinteractive exercises that make up the learner’s experiences. Whether ag-gregated in generic categories or split into groups of
information objects,instructional objects,
reusable learning objects
, digital learning objects arethe basic building blocks of the e-learning experience. There are a numberof detailed introductions to learning objects. Downes (2001) comparesthem to the reusable programming elements of object-oriented computerprogramming. In their Cisco Systems White Paper, Barritt and Lewis(2000) provide an example of a reusable learning object strategy con-strained to a specific instructional model based on Merrill’s componentdisplay theory, and Wylie (2001) compiles a number of interesting articles
68GRIFF RICHARDS, RORY McGREAL, MAREK HATALA,and NORM FRIESEN