A European Evaluation of the Promises of LOs

A European Evaluation of the Promises of LOs

Robert McCormick (The Open University, UK), Tomi Jaakkola (University of Turku, Finland) and Sami Nurmi (University of Turku, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-861-1.ch025
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Most studies on reusable digital learning materials, Learning Objects (LOs), relate to their use in universities. Few empirical studies exist to explore the impact of LOs on pedagogy, especially in schools. This chapter provides evidence from an evaluation of the use of LOs in schools. The evidence is from an EU-funded project Context E-Learning with Broadband Technologies, involving 500 schools in six countries across Europe, to examine the impact of LOs on pedagogy. It brought together producers and users to try out technically and pedagogically sound ways of producing, making available through a portal, and using LOs. This chapter reports data from both quantitative and qualitative studies conducted during 2004, including: online surveys (of all the teachers involved), routine data from the portal, semistructured interviews in 40 schools in all six countries, experimental studies in one of these countries, and 13 classroom case studies in four of the countries.
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This chapter will examine the major promises that learning objects (LOs) offer to teachers through the experience of a major European project, Context E-Learning with Broadband Technologies (CELEBRATE). LOs have been seen to offer a way of exploiting the new educational technologies, including those based on the Web and on virtual learning environments (VLE). One difference that it is claimed LOs bring to the new educational technologies is their potential for re-use in a variety of circumstances and thus that they have flexibility and interoperability. This marks them out from more purpose-built resources. Despite this apparently special nature, the most accepted definition of a LO is rather general: any entity, digital or nondigital that can be used or re-used or referenced during technology supported learning.a In this chapter we will examine the major features that have been attributed to LOs and, through the data from the evaluation of the CELEBRATE project, see to what extent some of the promises they offer can be fulfilled.

CELEBRATE was an Information Societies Technology Programme project funded by the European Commission over 30 months: June 2002 until November 2004.b It involved 23 participants from 11 countries, including commercial producers of learning materials, multimedia specialists, ministries of education, software and network companies, university academics and schools, and associated local authorities. Its objectives were to create and use a critical mass of material for a new generation of learning environments, and this material was distributed and used in schools in six countries: England, Finland, France, Hungary, Israel, and Norway. The LOs were made available via a Demonstration Portal to selected schools across Europe that were involved in existing broadband pilots in order to further stimulate the development of LOs by teachers themselves. CELEBRATE took the idea of an “exchange” and applied it to the school sector through a brokerage system. The CELEBRATE Brokerage System, which was a way of connecting initially four repositories of LOs and allowing users to search for and retrieve a LO on that system, provided a working model for how both schools and commercial publishers could develop and make available media-rich LOs both separately and in partnership. Precisely because all the elements of production, distribution, and use of LOs were involved, this was considered a feasibility study, and all that could be achieved by way of use of LOs by teachers was in the form of a pilot lasting a relatively short period of time (a maximum of four months). The data that forms the basis of this chapter were derived from an evaluation carried out by three of the universities involved (see Chapter XXVII for an account of the evaluation methodology).

The literature on LOs is largely based on technical aspects or on speculations about the benefits to producers and users of LOs, and much of this within the higher education sector. There are few empirical studies (e.g., Littlejohn, Jung & Broumley, 2003), and so this evaluation provided unique empirical evidence against which to judge the promises that pre-occupy the literature on LOs, extending it to include user experience (teachers). The evaluation revealed a positive view of LOs by school teachers, but a number of problems related to some of the major promises of LOs. The promises examined in this chapter relate to each of the phases of production, distribution and use (re-use) of LOs, and through this address the issues of:

  • Interoperability, that is, that they can be used in different technical environments (Campbell, 2003; Koper, 2003);

  • Reusability, that is, that though they might have been designed by one person with a particular learning context in mind, they can be used by another in a different context and in different combinations of LOs without making any changes to content (use “as is”) (Lambe, 2002);

  • Modification, that is, that they can be modified in some way to make them appropriate to the “new” situation of use;

  • Adaptability, that is, that the re-use, and any modification, will enable the LO to be adapted to the particular learners in question.

In addition there are some specific issues relating to providing LOs at an international level, where the language, culture, and educational systems vary considerably; a particular consequence of the CELEBRATE project.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Routine Data: Data that is collected automatically by a learning object distribution system.

Brokerage System: A system for connecting several repositories of learning objects such that they can be searched for and accessed by users through a portal.

Interoperability: The condition for a learning object to operate in any technical environment.

Adaptability: The condition for a learning object that will adapt to the learners needs.

Repository: A store of learning objects that can be accessed by users.

Granularity: The “size” of a learning object, seen in terms of student hours, extent of topic(s) covered, or degree of integration of material.

Reusability: The condition for a learning object to be used by any teacher in any context.

Metadata: Data used to describe a learning object in ways that a computer or computer system can read and work with.

Modifiability: The condition for a learning object that a teacher can alter some of its features to suit his or her situation.

Constructivist Learning Principles: Learning that sees learners constructing their own knowledge, and in so doing exercising their agency.

Learning Object: Any entity, digital or nondigital, that can be used, re-used, or referenced during technology-supported learning.

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
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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
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Using IMS Learning Design in Educational Situations
Chapter 14
Robert McLaughlan, Denise Kirkpatrick
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Online Role-Based Learning Designs for Teaching Complex Decision Making
Chapter 15
Garry Hoban
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Facilitating Learner-Generated Animations with Slowmation
Chapter 16
Yongwu Miao, Daniel Burgos, David Griffiths, Rob Koper
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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
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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
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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
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Collaborative Argumentation in Learning Resource Evaluation
Chapter 29
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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
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A Learning Design to Teach Scientific Inquiry
Chapter 33
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Adapting Problem-Based Learning to an Online Learning Environment
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Tan Wee Chuen, Baharuddin Aris, Mohd Salleh Abu
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Chapter 35
Sebastian Foti
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Applying Learning Object Libraries in K-12 Settings
Chapter 36
L. K. Curda, Melissa A. Kelly
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Guidelines for Developing Learning Object Repositories
Chapter 37
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An Analysis of Learning Designs that Integrate Patient Cases in Health Professions Education
Chapter 39
Mohan Chinnappan
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Reconceptualisation of Learning Objects as Meta-Schemas
Chapter 40
Henk Huijser
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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
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Chapter 43
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Principled Construction and Reuse of Learning Designs
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