Designing Learning Objects for Generic Web Sites

Designing Learning Objects for Generic Web Sites

Henk Huijser (University of Southern Queensland, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-861-1.ch040
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This chapter provides an in depth discussion of the issues involved in integrating learning design and learning objects into generic Web sites. It has a dual focus and consists of two parts: the first part outlines and critiques the notion of the Net Generation and its implications for learning design, while the second part is based on a case study of a generic academic learning support Web site and allows for the testing of some of the theoretical assumptions about the Net Generation. Informed by empirical research, this chapter concludes by offering suggestions on ways to exploit convergent possibilities of integrating learning design and learning objects in a Web environment, while paying careful attention to divergent capabilities of students targeted in such an environment.
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This chapter is concerned with working towards a tighter fit between the possibilities that new technologies provide for learning design and learning objects on the one hand, and an increasingly diverse student body on the other. When it comes to applying new technologies in an educational context, the emphasis tends to be on the potential that these technologies offer, often accompanied by a brief disclaimer that these technologies also facilitate fragmentations with greater disparities between the information-haves and have-nots. Not surprisingly, this simultaneous movement between possibilities and the skills/knowledge required to capitalise on those possibilities, presents the biggest challenge for an e-education environment.

The notion of the Net Generation (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005) attempts to capture the apparently fast changing skills/ knowledge sets of a “new generation,” and ascribe specific characteristics to that generation such as ability to read visual images, visual-spatial skills, digital literacy, and connectedness, amongst others. These kinds of characteristics would have major implications for the area of learning design and learning objects, particularly in terms of their applications. But just as with earlier attempts to define generations, the boundaries between them are porous, and the concept should thus be approached with appropriate caution. This applies in particular to a tertiary e-education environment which is increasingly characterised by a highly diverse student population, not only culturally but also in terms of “techno literacy.” In this context, the challenge for e-education becomes one of balancing convergent possibilities of integrating learning design and learning objects in a Web environment with divergent capabilities of diverse student cohorts. As Hughes (2004, p. 364) argues, “the ability and potential (of e-learning) to enhance access to education, particularly higher education, is largely determined by the potential learner’s circumstances, which in many ways define the learning environment.” Thus, the challenge is one of designing effective learning experiences in an increasingly diverse tertiary education context.

This chapter addresses the above challenge in a general sense in the first instance, before applying the resultant insights to an empirical case study of an academic learning support site at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), to forge links between theory and practice. USQ is well placed to conduct such a study because as a regional Australian university, it has both a highly diverse and a geographically dispersed student population, with more than 75% of its students studying in distance education mode. The case study involves a Web site called ALSOnline (Academic Learning Support Online), which is currently in the process of being redeveloped, and the study was designed to provide insights into what would make it more “user friendly,” both with regards to learning objects and the convergent possibilities of presenting and designing those objects.

The study consists of a survey of first year students from five large first year courses in five different faculties, and a follow-up series of in-depth interviews, conducted through MSN Messenger. The online survey asked questions about learning objects, accessibility, navigation, and organisation of content. The interviews paint a more in-depth picture of learner needs and capabilities and in particular the needs and capabilities of a diverse student population. This in turn raises questions about how to (re-)design a generic site like ALSOnline. For example, to what extent do we incorporate multimodal design? This would take advantage of convergent possibilities by incorporating and combining a variety of different media, which the Internet is ideally placed to accommodate. In addition, it would be tailored to the Net Generation with its “visual-spatial” skills, its “attentional deployment” (ability to shift attention rapidly from one task to another) and its “experiential preference” (prefer to learn by doing rather than by being told what to do). At the same time however, it raises questions about Internet access, and about the assumptions of the Net Generation’s skills themselves.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learning Design: An application of a pedagogical model for a specific learning objective, target group, and a specific context or knowledge domain. The learning design specifies the teaching and learning process, along with the conditions under which it occurs and the activities performed by the teachers and learners in order to achieve the required learning objectives (Conole & Fill, 2005).

Convergence: As with learning objects, there are many different definitions of convergence and not much consensus. It is often used with a specifying adjective (as in “media convergence” or “technological convergence”). In the context of this chapter, it refers to blurred boundaries between previously separate elements, particularly the potential that technological convergence offers with regards to “sharability” and “reusability” of learning objects, as well as the potential convergence between generic and course-specific learning objects.

ALSOnline: ALSOnline stands for Academic Learning Support Online. It is a generic academic support Web site designed by the Learning and Teaching Support Unit (LTSU) at USQ. URL:

Generic Academic Skills: Generic academic skills are academic skills that are not course-specific. Examples include essay and report writing, question analysis, numeracy skills, critical analysis, and so on.

Edutainment: Edutainment is a hybrid game genre that relies heavily on visuals and narratives or game formats but also incorporates some type of learning objective (Green & McNeese, 2007).

Learning Styles: Learning styles reflect the diversity of the ways in which students study and learn, and academics teach and learn.

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ): The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) is a dual-mode institution with “triple-option” teaching modes (on-campus, distance education, and online). It is currently the second largest distance education provider in Australia, with 75% of its students studying in this mode, with almost 90 nationalities represented (Sankey, 2006). URL:

The Net Generation: The Net Generation (also called “Digital Natives,” “Y Generation,” “Next Generation,” and “Millennials”) is a group of individuals, born roughly between 1980 and 1994, who have been characterised by their familiarity with and reliance on information and communication technologies (ICTs) (Kennedy et al., 2006).

Neomillennial Learning Approach: A neomillennial learning approach is concerned with designing learning materials to cater to learners with a range of different learning modalities and backgrounds. Designing for multimodal learners may reduce the impact of providing course materials to a very diverse and an increasingly nontraditional student body (Sankey, 2006).

Learning Object: On a basic level, learning objects are educational resources that can be employed in technology-supported learning (McGreal, 2004). However, there are many different definitions that run from the very general to the very specific, with little consensus. This chapter follows Downes’ (2004) approach who advocates that learning objects should be defined by the problems they solve.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Tom Carey
Lori Lockyer, Sue Bennett, Shirley Agostinho, Barry Harper
Lori Lockyer, Sue Bennett, Shirley Agostinho, Barry Harper
Chapter 1
Shirley Agostinho
The term “learning design” is gaining momentum in the e-learning literature as a concept for supporting academics to model and share teaching... Sample PDF
Learning Design Representations to Document, Model, and Share Teaching Practice
Chapter 2
Isobel Falconer, Allison Littlejohn
Practice models are generic approaches to the structuring and orchestration of learning activities for pedagogic purposes, intended to promote... Sample PDF
Representing Models of Practice
Chapter 3
Rob Koper, Yongwu Miao
IMS learning design (IMSLD) is an open standard that can be used to specify a wide range of pedagogical strategies in computer-interpretable models.... Sample PDF
Using the IMS LD Standard to Describe Learning Designs
Chapter 4
David Griffiths, Oleg Liber
The IMS LD specification is internally complex and has been used in a number of different ways. As a result users who have a basic understanding of... Sample PDF
Opportunities, Achievements, and Prospects for Use of IMS LD
Chapter 5
Franca Garzotto, Symeon Retalis
“A design pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that... Sample PDF
A Critical Perspective on Design Patterns for E-Learning
Chapter 6
Sherri S. Frizell, Roland Hübscher
Design patterns have received considerable attention for their potential as a means of capturing and sharing design knowledge. This chapter provides... Sample PDF
Using Design Patterns to Support E-Learning Design
Chapter 7
Peter Goodyear, Dai Fei Yang
This chapter provides an overview of recent research and development (R&D) activity in the area of educational design patterns and pattern... Sample PDF
Patterns and Pattern Languages in Educational Design
Chapter 8
Gráinne Conole
The chapter provides a theoretical framework for understanding learning activities, centering on two key aspects: (1) the capture and representation... Sample PDF
The Role of Mediating Artefacts in Learning Design
Chapter 9
Elizabeth Masterman
This chapter uses activity theory to construct a framework for the design and deployment of pedagogic planning tools. It starts by noting the impact... Sample PDF
Activity Theory and the Design of Pedagogic Planning Tools
Chapter 10
Barry Harper, Ron Oliver
This chapter describes the development of a taxonomy of learning designs based on a survey of 52 innovative ICT-using projects that formed the basis... Sample PDF
Developing a Taxonomy for Learning Designs
Chapter 11
Carmel McNaught, Paul Lam, Kin-Fai Cheng
The chapter will describe an expert review process used at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The mechanism used involves a carefully developed... Sample PDF
Using Expert Reviews to Enhance Learning Designs
Chapter 12
Matthew Kearney, Anne Prescott, Kirsty Young
This chapter reports on findings from a recent project situated in the area of preservice teacher education. The project investigated prospective... Sample PDF
Investigating Prospective Teachers as Learning Design Authors
Chapter 13
Paul Hazlewood, Amanda Oddie, Mark Barrett-Baxendale
IMS Learning Design (IMS LD) is a specification for describing a range of pedagogic approaches. It allows the linking of pedagogical structure... Sample PDF
Using IMS Learning Design in Educational Situations
Chapter 14
Robert McLaughlan, Denise Kirkpatrick
Decision-making processes in relation to complex natural resources require recognition and accommodation of diverse and competing perspectives in a... Sample PDF
Online Role-Based Learning Designs for Teaching Complex Decision Making
Chapter 15
Garry Hoban
Digital animations are complex to create and are usually made by experts for novices to download from Web sites or copy from DVDs and CDs to use as... Sample PDF
Facilitating Learner-Generated Animations with Slowmation
Chapter 16
Yongwu Miao, Daniel Burgos, David Griffiths, Rob Koper
Group interaction has to be meticulously designed to foster effective and efficient collaborative learning. The IMS Learning Design specification... Sample PDF
Representation of Coordination Mechanisms in IMS LD
Chapter 17
Johannes Strobel, Gretchen Lowerison, Roger Côté, Philip C. Abrami, Edward C. Bethel
In this chapter, we describe the process of modeling different theory-, research-, and best-practicebased learning designs into IMS-LD, a... Sample PDF
Modeling Learning Units by Capturing Context with IMS LD
Chapter 18
Daniel Burgos, Hans G.K. Hummel, Colin Tattersall, Francis Brouns, Rob Koper
This chapter presents some design guidelines for collaboration and participation in blended learning networks. As an exemplary network, we describe... Sample PDF
Design Guidelines for Collaboration and Participation with Examples from the LN4LD (Learning Network for Learning Design)
Chapter 19
Tom Boyle
This chapter argues that good design has to be at the heart of developing effective learning objects. It briefly outlines the “knowledge... Sample PDF
The Design of Learning Objects for Pedagogical Impact
Chapter 20
Margaret Turner
This chapter introduces an approach to writing content for online learning over networked media. It argues that few resources currently utilise the... Sample PDF
Visual Meaning Management for Networked Learning
Chapter 21
Christina Gitsaki
Due to the increasingly diverse student population in multicultural nations such as Australia, the U.S., Canada, and the UK, educators are faced... Sample PDF
Modification of Learning Objects for NESB Students
Chapter 22
Daniel Churchill, John Gordon Hedberg
The main idea behind learning objects is that they are to exist as digital resources separated from the learning task in which they are used. This... Sample PDF
Learning Objects, Learning Tasks, and Handhelds
Chapter 23
Peter Freebody, Sandy Muspratt, David McRae
The question addressed in this chapter is: What is the evidence for the effects of online programs of learning objects on motivation and learning?... Sample PDF
Technology, Curriculum, and Pedagogy in the Evaluation of an Online Content Program in Australasia
Chapter 24
David Lake, Kate Lowe, Rob Phillips, Rick Cummings, Renato Schibeci
This chapter provides a model to analyse the effectiveness and efficiency of Learning Objects being used in primary and secondary schools by... Sample PDF
Effective Use of Learning Objects in Class Environments
Chapter 25
Robert McCormick, Tomi Jaakkola, Sami Nurmi
Most studies on reusable digital learning materials, Learning Objects (LOs), relate to their use in universities. Few empirical studies exist to... Sample PDF
A European Evaluation of the Promises of LOs
Chapter 26
Tomi Jaakkola, Sami Nurmi
There has been a clear lack of rigorous empirical evidence on the effectiveness of learning objects (LOs) in education. This chapter reports the... Sample PDF
Instructional Effectiveness of Learning Objects
Chapter 27
Robert McCormick
This chapter will examine the approach taken in the evaluation of a large-scale feasibility trial of the production, distribution, and use of... Sample PDF
Evaluating Large-Scale European LO Production, Distribution, and Use
Chapter 28
John C Nesbit, Tracey L. Leacock
The Learning Object Review Instrument (LORI) is an evaluation framework designed to support collaborative critique of multimedia learning resources.... Sample PDF
Collaborative Argumentation in Learning Resource Evaluation
Chapter 29
Philippe Martin, Michel Eboueya
This chapter first argues that current approaches for sharing and retrieving learning objects or any other kinds of information are not efficient or... Sample PDF
For the Ultimate Accessibility and Reusability
Chapter 30
Sue Bennett, Dominique Parrish, Geraldine Lefoe, Meg O’Reilly, Mike Keppell, Robyn Philip
As the notion of learning objects has grown in popularity, so too has interest in how they should be stored to promote access and reusability. A key... Sample PDF
A Needs Analysis Framework for the Design of Digital Repositories in Higher Education
Chapter 31
William Bramble, Mariya Pachman
Reusable learning objects (LOs) constitute a promising approach to the development of easily accessible, technologically sound, and curriculum... Sample PDF
Costs and Sustainability of Learning Object Repositories
Chapter 32
Kristine Elliott, Kevin Sweeney, Helen Irving
This chapter reports the authors’ experiences of developing a learning design to teach scientific inquiry, of integrating the learning design with... Sample PDF
A Learning Design to Teach Scientific Inquiry
Chapter 33
Lisa Lobry de Bruyn
This chapter explores through a case study approach of a tertiary-level unit on Land Assessment for Sustainable Use, the connections between three... Sample PDF
Adapting Problem-Based Learning to an Online Learning Environment
Chapter 34
Tan Wee Chuen, Baharuddin Aris, Mohd Salleh Abu
This chapter aims to guide the readers through the design and development of a prototype Web-based learning system based on the integration of... Sample PDF
Learning Objects and Generative Learning for Higher Order Thinking
Chapter 35
Sebastian Foti
The author describes the work of Dr. Mary Budd Rowe and the establishment of an early learning object databases. Extensive training with K-12... Sample PDF
Applying Learning Object Libraries in K-12 Settings
Chapter 36
L. K. Curda, Melissa A. Kelly
We present guidelines for designing and developing a repository for the storage and exchange of instructional resources, as well as considerations... Sample PDF
Guidelines for Developing Learning Object Repositories
Chapter 37
Sandra Wills, Anne McDougall
This study tracks the uptake of online role play in Australia from 1990 to 2006 and the affordances to its uptake. It examines reusability, as one... Sample PDF
Reusability of Online Role Play as Learning Objects or Learning Designs
Chapter 38
Lori Lockyer, Lisa Kosta, Sue Bennett
Health professional education is changing to meet the demands of a limited workforce and a focus on community-based clinical training. The change... Sample PDF
An Analysis of Learning Designs that Integrate Patient Cases in Health Professions Education
Chapter 39
Mohan Chinnappan
The shift in the way we visualise the nature of mathematics and mathematics learning has presented educational technologists with new challenges in... Sample PDF
Reconceptualisation of Learning Objects as Meta-Schemas
Chapter 40
Henk Huijser
This chapter provides an in depth discussion of the issues involved in integrating learning design and learning objects into generic Web sites. It... Sample PDF
Designing Learning Objects for Generic Web Sites
Chapter 41
Morag Munro, Claire Kenny
E-learning standards are a contentious topic amongst educators, designers, and researchers engaged in the development of learning objects and... Sample PDF
Standards for Learning Objects and Learning Designs
Chapter 42
Eddy Boot, Luca Botturi, Andrew S. Gibbons, Todd Stubbs
In developing modern instructional software, learning designs are used to formalize descriptions of roles, activities, constraints, and several... Sample PDF
Supporting Decision Making in Using Design Languages for Learning Designs and Learning Objects
Chapter 43
Gilbert Paquette, Olga Mariño, Karin Lundgren-Cayrol, Michel Léonard
This chapter summarizes the work on instructional engineering and educational modeling accomplished since 1992 at the LICEF Research Center of... Sample PDF
Principled Construction and Reuse of Learning Designs
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