A Reusable Learning-Object Approach to Designing Online Courses

A Reusable Learning-Object Approach to Designing Online Courses

Seung Youn (Yonnie) Chyung (Boise State University, USA) and Joann Swanson (Boise State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch265
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Abstract

While the concept of utilizing learning objects has been addressed in instructional design for some time, slightly different definitions of the term “learning object” are found in the literature. For example, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) (2005) defines a learning object as “any entity, digital or non-digital, which can be used, re-used or referenced during technology supported learning.” Wiley (2000) similarly defines a learning object as “any digital resource that can be reused to support learning” (p. 7). Barritt and Alderman (2004) state a working definition of learning objects as “an independent collection of content and media elements, a learning approach (interactivity, learning architecture, context), and metadata (used for storage and searching)” (pp. 7-8). Merrill (1996) uses a different term, a “knowledge object” that consists of a set of predefined elements, each of which is “instantiated by way of a multimedia resource (text, audio, video, graphic) or a pointer to another knowledge object” (p. 32).
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Introduction And Background: Learning Objects

While the concept of utilizing learning objects has been addressed in instructional design for some time, slightly different definitions of the term “learning object” are found in the literature. For example, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) (2005) defines a learning object as “any entity, digital or non-digital, which can be used, re-used or referenced during technology supported learning.” Wiley (2000) similarly defines a learning object as “any digital resource that can be reused to support learning” (p. 7). Barritt and Alderman (2004) state a working definition of learning objects as “an independent collection of content and media elements, a learning approach (interactivity, learning architecture, context), and metadata (used for storage and searching)” (pp. 7-8). Merrill (1996) uses a different term, a “knowledge object” that consists of a set of predefined elements, each of which is “instantiated by way of a multimedia resource (text, audio, video, graphic) or a pointer to another knowledge object” (p. 32). Rosenberg (2000) provides a more comprehensive definition of learning or knowledge objects than others:

A learning/knowledge object is the smallest ‘chunk’ of instruction or information that can stand alone and still have meaning to a learner. Instead of defining online training as courses, we could break down the course into its component parts - text objects that focus on a specific concept or skill, media (e.g., video, audio) related to a specific fact or topic, graphics and animations, assessment, and so forth By creating object libraries, different products can use the same materials, thus reducing redundancy and lowering costs. (pp. 170-171)

A common focus among the definitions of learning objects is on maximizing the efficiency of designing instruction through its granularity and reusability while accomplishing its instructional objective.

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Reusable Learning Objects

A benefit of using learning objects in instruction is that once developed, they can be reused in other contexts. Due to the potential cost-effectiveness of recycling existing learning objects, many e-learning vendors and corporate industries are looking into adopting a reusable learning object (RLO) strategy that can facilitate rapid development of e-learning products in various forms such as “problem-based learning, exploratory environments, performance support systems, job aids, help systems, or any blended learning solution” (Cisco, 2003a, p. 6).

An important task in adopting an RLO strategy is to determine the granularity and hierarchy of content. Autodesk, Inc, an early adopter of an RLO strategy, explains that a learning object (LO) is an aggregation of multiple reusable information objects (RIOs), and that an information object contains multiple raw content items. The RIOs used in the Autodesk content model include concept, fact, principle, process, and procedure, known as the CFP3 model (Barritt & Alderman, 2004). An RLO is “a collection [of] RIOs that are grouped together to teach a common job task on a single (enabling) learning objective” (Hodgins, 2002, p. 78).

Cisco Systems, Inc. is another early adopter of an RLO strategy. Built upon Autodesk’s content model, Cisco’s RLO strategy also utilizes the terms RLOs and RIOs to describe its modular e-learning content in hierarchical format, and has developed its own e-learning framework and guidelines. Cisco (2000) defines RLOs and RIOs as follows:

The RLO Strategy is built upon the Reusable Information Object (RIO). An RIO is [a] granular, reusable chunk of information that is media independent. An RIO can be developed once, and delivered in multiple delivery mediums. Each RIO can stand alone as a collection of content items, practice items and assessment items that are combined based on a single learning objective. Individual RIOs are then combined to form a larger structure called a Reusable Learning Object (RLO). (p. 2)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reusability: “The flexibility to incorporate instructional components in multiple applications and contexts” (ADL, 2004, p. 32).

Reusable Learning Objects: “A collection [of] RIOs that are grouped together to teach a common job task on a single (enabling) learning objective” (Hodgins, 2002, p. 78).

Congruent Reusable Learning Objects: RLOs contributed by a single author or a collaborative team that match in structure and tone.

Disparate Reusable Learning Objects: RLOs contributed by more than one author to one or more object repositories that differ in structure and tone.

Reusable Information Objects: “A granular, reusable chunk of information that is media independent… Each Information Object can stand-alone and is classified as either being a Concept, Fact, Process, Principle, Command Reference, Exercise or Procedure.” (Hodgins, 2002, p. 77-78).

Granularity: An appropriate size of learning objects that can stand alone.

Learning Objects: “Any entity, digital or non-digital, which can be used, re-used or referenced during technology supported learning” (IEEE, 2005).

Disruptive Technology: First coined by Clayton Christensen to describe the replacement of outdated technology with new innovations. Current literature uses the term to describe the potential for reusable learning objects to overtake previous forms of course content development and management.

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