The Role of Learning Objects in Distance Learning

The Role of Learning Objects in Distance Learning

Robin H. Kay (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch267
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Abstract

In the past 10 years, a considerable amount of money and effort has been directed toward distance education, with growth estimated as high as 30%-40% annually (Harper, Chen, & Yen, 2004; Hurst, 2001; Newman, 2003). The popularity of distance learning appears to be founded on personal control over instruction (Burgess & Russell, 2003, Pierrakeas, 2003), the variety of multimedia formats available to students (Hayes & Jamrozik, 2001), and customized support (Harper et al., 2004). However, the success of distance education is anything but a foregone conclusion. Multiple obstacles have impeded acceptance including reluctance to use technology (Harper et al., 2004), time required to develop course resources (Harper et al., 2004; Hayes & Jamrozik, 2001) and to support students (Levine & Sun, 2002), lack of technology skills (Berge & Smith, 2000), and cost (Burgess & Russell, 2003; Levine & Sun, 2002). In addition the promise of interactivity and constructive learning in distance learning has not been realized. Most distance learning offerings resemble traditional classroom courses (Coates & Humpeys, 2003; Levine & Sun, 2002, Navaro, 2000). When interaction does take place, it is usually in the form of online discussion, however, a number of studies have reported that true social interaction leading to cognitive development is rare (e.g., Berge and Muilenburg, 2000; Bisenbach-Lucas, 2003; Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, 2001; Hara, Bonk and Angeli, 1998; Meyer, 2003; Wickstrom, 2003).
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Overview

In the past 10 years, a considerable amount of money and effort has been directed toward distance education, with growth estimated as high as 30%-40% annually (Harper, Chen, & Yen, 2004; Hurst, 2001; Newman, 2003). The popularity of distance learning appears to be founded on personal control over instruction (Burgess & Russell, 2003, Pierrakeas, 2003), the variety of multimedia formats available to students (Hayes & Jamrozik, 2001), and customized support (Harper et al., 2004). However, the success of distance education is anything but a foregone conclusion. Multiple obstacles have impeded acceptance including reluctance to use technology (Harper et al., 2004), time required to develop course resources (Harper et al., 2004; Hayes & Jamrozik, 2001) and to support students (Levine & Sun, 2002), lack of technology skills (Berge & Smith, 2000), and cost (Burgess & Russell, 2003; Levine & Sun, 2002). In addition the promise of interactivity and constructive learning in distance learning has not been realized. Most distance learning offerings resemble traditional classroom courses (Coates & Humpeys, 2003; Levine & Sun, 2002, Navaro, 2000). When interaction does take place, it is usually in the form of online discussion, however, a number of studies have reported that true social interaction leading to cognitive development is rare (e.g., Berge and Muilenburg, 2000; Bisenbach-Lucas, 2003; Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, 2001; Hara, Bonk and Angeli, 1998; Meyer, 2003; Wickstrom, 2003).

Learning objects are promising tools that (a) address a number of the barriers students and teachers experience with distance education and (b) are based on sound learning theory researched over the past 15 years. This chapter will examine the potential role of learning objects in distance education, as well as the challenges in using them effectively.

Key Terms in this Chapter

MERLOT: Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching

Learning Object: An interactive web-based tool that supports learning by enhancing, amplifying, and guiding the cognitive processes of a learner

Instructional Wrap: Instructions or guiding questions that help a user effectively explore a learning object.

Constructivism: An approach to learning where student is required to construct or develop meaning. Typically, students work with tools and/or open end problems. One could also think of this philosophy as learning by doing or student-centered learning.

Pedagogy: The strategies, techniques, and approaches that teachers can use to facilitate learning.

Scaffolding: An approach to learning where students are given hints, leading questions, or a basic cognitive structure to guide their learning.

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