Understanding Factors that Influence the Effectiveness of Learning Objects in Secondary School Classrooms

Understanding Factors that Influence the Effectiveness of Learning Objects in Secondary School Classrooms

Robin Kay (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-120-9.ch027
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Abstract

The design, development, reuse, and accessibility of learning objects has been examined in some detail for almost 10 years (Kay & Knaack, 2007c, 2007d), however, research on the effectiveness of learning objects is limited (Kay & Knaack, 2005; Nurmi & Jaakkola, 2006a, 2006b, Sosteric & Hesemeirer, 2004), particularly in the K-12 environment. Until recently, learning objects were solely used in higher education (Haughey & Muirhead, 2005; Kay & Knaack, 2005, 2007c). The purpose of the current chapter is to examine factors that influence the effectiveness of learning objects in secondary school classrooms. These factors will include learning object qualities, gender, self-efficacy, grade, subject area, and teaching strategies.
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Introduction

Definition of Learning Objects

It is important to establish a clear definition of a “learning object” in order to assess effectiveness. Unfortunately, consensus regarding a definition has yet to be attained (e.g., Bennett & McGee, P., 2005; Metros, 2005; Muzio, Heins, & Mundell 2002; Parrish, 2004; Wiley, et al. 2004). Part of the problem rests in the values and needs of learning object developers and designers. The majority of researchers have emphasized technological issues such accessibility, adaptability, the effective use of metadata, reusability, and standardization (e.g., Downes, 2003; Koppi, Bogle, & Bogle, 2005; Muzio et al., 2002; Siqueira, Melo, & Braz, 2004). However, a second “learning focussed” pathway to defining learning objects has emerged as a reaction to the overemphasis of technological characteristics (Baruque & Melo, 2004; Bradley & Boyle, 2004; Cochrane, 2005; Wiley et al., 2004).

While both technical and learning-based definitions offer important qualities that can contribute to the success of learning objects, research on the latter is noticeably absent (Kay and Knaack, 2007b, 2007d). Agostinho, Bennett, Lockyear & Harper (2004) note that we are at risk of having digital libraries full of easy to find learning objects we do not know how to use in the classroom.

In order to address a clear gap in the literature on evaluating learning objects, a pedagogically focussed definition of learning objects has been adopted for the current chapter. Learning objects are as defined as “interactive Web-based tools that support the learning of specific concepts by enhancing, amplifying, and guiding the cognitive processes of learners”. See Kay & Knaack (2008a) for concrete examples of the learning objects examined.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Engagement Construct: Student perceptions of how engaging a learning object is.

Self-Efficacy: Refers to the perceived confidence that one has in doing a specific set of tasks.

Learning Object: Interactive Web-based tool that support the learning of specific concepts by enhancing, amplifying, and guiding the cognitive processes of learners.

Reusability: Permits learning objects to be useful for a large audience, particularly when the objects are placed in well organized, searchable databases.

Quality Construct: Student perceptions of the overall quality of a learning objects after they used a learning object.

Student Performance: The percent difference between post-test and pre-test scores.

Engagement: Refers to difficulty level, theme, aesthetic appeal, feedback, and inclusion of multimedia.

Interactivity: Involves promoting constructive activity, providing a user with sufficient control, and certain degree of interaction.

Learning Construct: Student perceptions of how much they learned as a result of using a learning object.

Design: Layout, degree of personalization, quality of graphics, and emphasis of key concepts.

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