Learning Object Based Instruction

Learning Object Based Instruction

Alex Stone (VLN Partners, LLC., USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-503-2.ch404


Imagine a vast repository of digital materials that includes an unlimited supply of instructional videos, interactive multimedia exercises, links to Web sites, reading exercises, recorded interviews with experts, interactive graphs, charts, diagrams, photographs and maps—and nearly any other form of digital instruction— all organized according to academic standards, instructional objectives, and specific topics addressed. Teachers could log in to the repository via the Internet, type a simple search string and instantly access hundreds of pertinent instructional sequences that they could use to enhance their teaching practices in both the classroom and in the virtual learning environment. This vision has been the driving force behind a form of instructional technology called learning objects (LOs), and it is becoming an increasingly relevant topic within the field of instructional technology today.
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Perhaps the most widely accepted definition of the term learning object comes from David Wiley (2002). Wiley (2002) states that a learning object is any digital resource that can be reused to support learning (p.7). While Wiley’s definition and other attempts to define the true nature and function of learning objects are important efforts, varying views regarding the true nature and function of learning objects have caused a great deal of confusion within the field of instructional technology concerning this technology (Sosteric, 2002; Welsch, 2000). In any event, the fundamental theme that ties every perspective together is the basic idea that digital instructional content can be encapsulated, stored, and reused in the appropriate context. To put it more succinctly, learning objects are reusable and interoperable. These core attributes make learning objects both appealing and controversial.

The term “learning object” appears in the vernacular sometime around 1994 and is often attributed to the work of Wayne Hodgins (Wiley, 2002, p. 4), but the basic concept of reusing digital resources to streamline computing practices for programmers and to introduce uniformity of experience for end-users can be traced back to the work of Ole-Johan Dahl and Kristen Nygaard from the Norwegian Computing Center, Oslo, Norway, in the mid 1960s with their work on a programming language called SIMULA. This work led to a form of computing called object oriented programming that has had a profound impact upon the field of computer science and information technology. Object oriented programming gained momentum in the 1970s with the work of Alan Kay and became increasingly popular as a result of the work conducted in the 1970s and in the early 1980s by Bjorn Stroustrup with his efforts to apply the basic concepts of object oriented programming to the C computer language to create the commercially successful and widely accepted C++ computer language. Soon after that, a group at Sun led by James Gosling introduced a derivative of C++ called Java that has gained increasing popularity with the expansion of the Internet.

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