The Usefulness of Learning Objects in Industry Oriented Learning Environments

The Usefulness of Learning Objects in Industry Oriented Learning Environments

Shantha Fernando (University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka), Henk G. Sol (University of Groningen, The Netherlands) and Ajantha Dahanayake (Georgia State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jvple.2012040101
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Abstract

A model is presented to evaluate the usefulness of learning objects for industry oriented learning environments that emphasise training university graduates for job opportunities in a competitive industry oriented economy. Knowledge workers of the industry seek continuous professional development to keep their skills and knowledge up to date. Many of the desired features of learning objects and facilities of e-learning systems can be realized in a framework that combines usefulness, usage, and usability. This model on the usefulness of learning objects, called Learning Objects Evaluation Model (LOEM), defines the concepts: academic level specificity, field specificity, industry specificity, operational specificity, and reusability specificity. It also defines an index, called Learning Objects Specificity Index (LOSI) that helps course developers in a course design and development process to assess the usefulness of learning objects.
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Introduction

The United Nation’s Economic and Social Council states that industry plays a crucial role in technological innovations, research and development activities that are vital for the economic and social development of any country (UN ESC, 1998, p. 2, 2006). For an industry driven development to be sustainable, universities need to take a leading role in creating a suitable environment for the industry experts to participate in the education process. In order for an industrial organisation to participate in the education processes and to provide knowledge and human resources, education systems need to change and be adaptable to trends in industry (Collis & Moonen, 2001, pp. 36-43). Therefore, it is necessary to design and develop courses that are aimed at industry oriented careers to cater for industry demands in terms of skills and knowledge. Such courses should be embedded with adequate flexibility so that industry driven changes can be applied as and when necessary. This is an important aspect especially in a situation where graduates aim at job opportunities in a competitive industry oriented economy, or in a situation where the knowledge workers of an industry aim at continuous professional development to keep their skills and knowledge up to date.

We use the term adaptive learning environment to refer to a learning environment that is aligned to the trends in industry and society with a continuous development of courses and syllabi through the active participation of industry experts and academics. With the rapid growth of the Internet and globalisation, the use of e-learning has become significant in many university environments. The concept of learning objects (LOs) became popular due to its close relationship to e-learning, and their nature being reusable, interactive, self-contained, small, independent chunks of knowledge or interactions, which can be aggregated to form courses (NLII, 2003; IEEE, 2002; Wiley, 2000; WORC, 2003; University of Wisconsin, 2002).

We observed that LOs provide a flexible mechanism for collaboration when producing courses, be it among universities or between universities and industry. An environment that is desirable for universities and industries to collaborate on course development using LOs is illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Desired collaboration environment for universities and industries

Many of the desired features of LOs and the facilities of e-learning systems can be exploited to create a framework and a system to produce courses in line with the demands made by industry. However, we identified that course design and development processes in such a framework need to take into account the combinational effect of the three “U”s that Keen and Sol (2008) point to: usefulness, usage and usability. Existing solutions do not clearly address this need. A model and a framework are needed to enforce a better approach to developing courses in an adaptive manner to meet and match the needs of different industries in a country. Therefore, we engaged in case based action research that followed a design science approach to formulate theories that take into account the three “U”s of learning objects that contribute to a successful realisation of an adaptive learning environment (Fernando, 2010). We list these theories (Figure 1).

  • The Learning Objects Evaluation Model (LOEM) and the associated Learning Object Specificity Index (LOSI) to address the usefulness of learning objects.

  • The IT-Competency Estimation Model (ICEM) and the associated IT-Competency Index (ICI) to address the usage of learning objects.

  • The Extended e-Learning Maturity Model (EeLMM) and the associated Extended e-Learning maturity Index (EeLMI) to address the usability of learning objects.

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