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EmergingTechnologies2007

EmergingTechnologies2007

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Related terms

Artificial intelligence, intelligent tutoring,
learning object model (LOM), learning object
repository (LOR), rapid learning, reusable
learning objects (RLOs), sharable content
objects (SCOs), SCORM.

Description

Learning objects are a unit of software that
is produced about a particular aspect of a
subject and that has educational value.
They are emulations of “software objects,” a
central concept of object-oriented
programming that provides for the
reusability of coherent pieces of code.
Beyond that, there is no agreed upon
definition of what learning objects really are.
Learning objects range from a single image
or piece of text to full Web-based units on a
specific curriculum. Learning objects are
also referred to as “reusable learning
objects” (RLOs) and “sharable content
objects” (SCOs). The acronym SCORM, a
well-known standard for learning objects,
stands for Sharable Content Object
Reference Model.
As online educational materials are
produced, they often end up in online
aggregations of learning objects, usually
referred to as “learning object repositories.”
To facilitate searching and retrieval,
metadata is used to describe objects in
repositories.
Learning objects have several uses. One
use is to improve the efficiency of producing
educational materials by reusing learning
objects in new curriculum units (which
themselves may also be learning objects).
The vision of the learning object model
(LOM) is to have computer programs
organize
personalized courses of study using many
learning objects that are selected based on
gaps in knowledge determined by computer-
based assessments. However, it has been
difficult to show a working demonstration of
this vision that makes sense from a
pedagogical point of view. While there is a
vision of both reusability and interoperability

of learning objects, in practice most uses of
learning objects fall far short of that ideal.
Another use for learning objects is in the
area of “rapid learning,” where a particular
learning object is served up in response to a
specific user's immediate need for
information. This application of learning
objects is sometimes referred to as “just-in-
time learning.” This use has been more
successful, as the learning objects do not
need to make sense linked together
because they are used to deliver specific
pieces of information.
Learning objects are often referred to as
“chunks of learning.” But people do not
learn much in de-contextualized discrete
chunks, and the presentation of a particular
“chunk of learning,” such as a graph, does
not mean the intended learning has taken
place. Rather, learning objects are really
software objects built to be reusable so that
programmers or graphic artists do not need
to reconstruct them. There is nothing
inherently wrong with the concept of
reusability, but it is important to understand
that the act of reassembling parts on a
screen is not an adequate instructional
design model (Krauss, 2004; Wiley, 2006).
At the simplest level, the reassembly of
learning objects results in the same old
“tell-test” presentations. A more soph
isticated version of this model is the vision
of giant repositories of reusable objects that
can be assembled into a “course” or
“teaching moment” based on the results of
continuous online assessments. This idea is
based on older, behaviorist concepts of
“programmed instruction” that have now
been replaced by newer cognitive and
constructivist learning theories of
education. While older adults may be
impressed by a program’s ability to provide
a custom mix of items to view on the
screen, this model does not work for the
younger generation of adults now in
educational institutions or work settings. As
Collis and Strijker (2003) note, “The
reusability of an electronic learning resource
depends on its fit with the language,
culture, curriculum, computer-use practices,
and pedagogical approaches of the
potential learners and their instructors.
Making this fit has proven to be very
difficult.”

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115

Repositories for learning objects can be
simple or complex (“rafts” or “battleships”
to use Derek Morrison’s metaphor), and
they can be general or subject specific.
What is stored in learning object
repositories is not standardized in terms of
formats but represents a wide range of
educational media.

Selected Examples

Following is a list of some of the many
learning object repositories:
The California Digital Library supports the
libraries of the University of California.
http://www.cdlib.org/
CLOE stands for the Cooperative Learning
Object Exchange, a consortium of colleges
and universities who have agreed to share
learning objects.
http://learnware.uwaterloo.ca/projects/CCC
O/cloe_stories.html
The Digital Library of Information Science
and Technology
is based at the University of
Arizona.
http://dlist.sir.arizona.edu/

DLORN (Distributed Learning Object
Repository Network)
is a repository set up
by Stephen Downes, a senior researcher at
the National Research Council in Canada.
http://www.downes.ca/cgi-
bin/dlorn/dlorn.cgi
DSpace is a digital repository system that
captures, stores, indexes, preserves, and
distributes digital research material.
http://dspace.org/index.html
EducaNext is a service that supports
creating and sharing knowledge for higher
education. It is open to any member of the
academic or research community.
http://www.educanext.org/ubp
Fedora is a general-purpose repository
system developed jointly by Cornell
University Information Science and the
University of Virginia Library.
http://www.fedora.info
FLORE stands for the French Learning
Object Repository for Education, hosted by
the University of Victoria in Canada.
http://web.uvic.ca/hrd/flore/
Gateway to 21st Century Skills contains
thousands of lesson plans and teaching

resources for grades K-12.
http://www.thegateway.org
goENC contains resources for K-12 science
and math.
http://www.goenc.com/
IDEAS provides Wisconsin educators with
teacher reviewed resources for grades K-12.
http://ideas.wisconsin.edu
Koha is a New Zealand based online library
covering all subjects.
http://www.koha.org/

LESTER (Learning Science and Technology
Repository)
is an online community and
database focused on innovations in learning
science and technology (LST), which profiles
innovative research projects and
researchers.
http://lester.rice.edu/DesktopDefault.aspx?
tabindex=0&tabid=1
LLEARN is a repository of materials for
language learning.
http://www.llearn.net/project.php
LoLa Exchange is a place for sharing high
quality learning objects, with a focus on
information literacy.
http://www.lolaexchange.org/
LRC is an international community for
sharing materials in higher education.
http://www.lrc3.unsw.edu.au:8010/
The Maricopa Learning Exchange is a
warehouse of learning objects at the high
school and college levels.
http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/mlx/
MERLOT is the largest repository of learning
objects, with almost 15,000 items.
http://www.merlot.org/Home.po
National Science Digital Library (NSDL) is a
great source for learning materials in
science fields.
http://nsdl.org/
The Ontario E-Learning Object Management
Repository
has been set up by the Ministry
of Education to serve learning objects to
Ontario schools and post-secondary
institutions.
http://mlor.oise.utoronto.ca/acg/eduontari
o_d/secure/elearning/
PROFETIC is a French learning object
repository.
http://www.profetic.org/

116

© Brandon Hall Research

Public Library of Science is a nonprofit
organization of scientists and physicians
committed to making the world's scientific
and medical literature a freely available
public resource.
http://www.publiclibraryofscience.org
UNESCO maintains the Free & Open Source
Software Portal.
http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-
URL_ID=12034&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_
SECTION=201.html

Online Resources

Cisco Systems has been a leader in
promoting “reusable learning objects.” A
2003 white paper on the company’s RLO
strategy is available at:
http://www.cisco.com/application/pdf/en/
us/guest/netsol/ns460/c654/cdccont_09
00aecd800eb905.pdf
A primer on how to design and author
learning objects, authored by Rachel Smith,
is available at:
http://www.nmc.org/guidelines/index.shtml
An audio discussion of learning objects with
several of the leaders in this field is
available at:
http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/archives/
002089.html
The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
hosts a large bibliography on learning
objects.
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/CIE/AOP/LO_bi
b.html
The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
also maintains a list of “learning object
collections,” also known as LORs – learning
object repositories.
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/CIE/AOP/LO_co
llections.html
Norm Friesen has written a review of
implementing learning object repositories
that use the Canadian standard, CANCORE.
http://www.cancore.ca/implementing_proje
cts.html
For a highly critical view of learning objects,
see Teemu Leinonen’s article, “Learning
Objects: Is the King Naked?”
http://flosse.dicole.org/?item=learning-
objects-is-the-king-naked
Scott Leslie’s reply to the above article is
found on his blog, EdTechPost.

http://www.edtechpost.ca/mt/archive/000
681.html
LORNET is a consortium of Canadian
universities who share research on learning
objects and their use.
http://www.lornet.org/eng/scientifiques.ht
m
The Joint Conference on Digital Libraries
holds an annual gathering.
http://www.jcdl.org/
The Higher Educational Podcast Repository
is a place for storing educationally useful
lectures and other educational events.
http://www.uis.edu/podcasting/projects/in
dex.html#com123

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