Thoughts on "Learning Objects: Difficulties and Opportunities"

Finally taking the time to go through this paper (described here) by David Wiley. Here’s a couple stream-of-consciousness thoughts while reading it:

  • 2.1: Decontextualized Learning: David discusses the paradox of context vs. reusability. This is a huge issue, but he doesn’t mention that a learning object can have multiple, simultaneous contexts, of different granularities and sources. An object can simultaneously be contextualized as a biochemical reaction, as a nutritional process, a socioeconomic driver, etc… These contexts don’t even have to be embedded in the LO’s metadata - they can be externally derived, as well.
  • 2.2: Megaphone: YES. This is key. Learning Objects should ideally be more than just glitzy web pages or whatever - they should be designed from concept to pixel with use as a LO in mind.
  • 2.3: Automation: I’ve been thinking about this kind of thing for a while. I used to work at a company that was largely focussed on automated generation of courses from learning objects in response to user input (we built a dynamic LMS based on learning objects). This is essentially a dynamically generated learning object, or perhaps a collection or aggregation of learning objects (as was the case in this other company). This stuff can be extremely powerful, and adds another layer of context on the learning objects.
  • 3.2: Design for reusability: Yes. A resource that wasn’t designed for reuse is of no more use to a learning object repository than a single learning object is when accessed outside of its context in the LOR. I really like the learning-object-as-words-in-a-sentence metaphor used here.
  • 3.3: Intellectual Property: A true “educational object economy,” where objects are traded like currency, is probably less idyllic than it seems. What may become more likely are communities of practice, freely sharing objects within these communities, and selectively sharing with other communities.
  • 4.2: OOP as Reusability: Intriguing concept - the learning object as a content-free assembly of logic and algorithms. What if these algorithms were able to dynamically assemble a presentation of content, built on appropriate separate assets in a repository? A LO would know that, in the particular context that the user is presenting, it needs to display (fill in the blanks) in a particular manner… Self-assembling learning objects, responding to contextualized parameters…
  • 4.3: Social Support for LO Use: What if a Learning Object Repository were able to respond to Trackback pings? It would decentralize contextualization of the learning objects - allowing instructors, students, producers… to provide context in their own weblogs, which could then be added as a layer around the learning object itself… Might have to investigate this for CAREO…


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