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Friday, February 22, 2008

Learning Object Tools

A reader from another country has asked me about Learning Object Tools. I asked him to clarify what they meant and the response was:
Learning Object Tools are those that allow you to create, edit and manage learning objects.
There is also a bit of language barrier. I pointed them at the Wikipedia article - Learning Object. It cites quite a few repositories and briefly mentions "Burrokeet is an Open Source Software tool that assists in the creation of Learning Objects from existing content. " This is something I'm not familiar with. I also suggested looking at LCMS products. And looking at SCORM / SCOs.

But it got me to thinking that I've really not looked at Learning Objects in quite a while - and I've not really kept up on Learning Object Tools.

So, I was hoping that someone could help me and him:

  1. What are good general discussions of learning objects and learning object tools?
  2. My impression is that these were a big topic about 4-5 years ago, and a lot is happening in academia, but not much is happening in corporate spaces. Is that the right impressions?
  3. What are the categories of tools that represent this space?
  4. What are some specific tools within those categories?
Any help would be appreciated.


colleen said...

Seems to many of us that what educational sources call "learning objects", many in the workplace call "job aids".
Small pieces, loosely joined.
SCORM was important in the conversation early on in that it focused the community on flexibility of platform and availability across disciplines. Tools that help in creating job aids focus on same.

In education, we would create a "learning object" to archive discussion in Blackboard. In the workplace, it's a "job aid" to allow send-as for your Outlook email.

Same tools, same intention, different language.
Learning objects lost steam in education for many reasons (culture that inhibits sharing intellectual property, rigidity in peer review, etc). Job aids are picking up steam in the workplace.

Tools? Screen capture systems, Flash and .mov converters, better indexing and search systems. simple metatagging. Capture knowledge or process in small chunks and make it available as-needed. LOJA - a new term for the divide?

Anonymous said...

Like you Tony, I thought this was a no brainer, until I decided to look it up in some of the texts I have. Only one had a working definition and it was not what I had understood it to be. Garrison and Anderson (2003)define educational objects (cross referenced in the index-learning objects, see educational objects), as "the use of enhanced second-generation tools such as computer-assisted instruction through use of simulations, multimedia drill and practice, and self-paced tutorials..." p. 37, paragraph 2.

I always thought learning objects also included the artifacts created using various tools (i.e. a site on Facebook, e-portfolios) but according to this definition, it is only the aspect that an instructional designer (rather than additions from the instructor or students) creates to initiate or create learning and/or learning environments.

The tools, therefore, would be as Cole outlined, screen capture systems, Flash, and even LMS systems. However, I disagree with Cole that education lost steam because of sharing intellectual property, etc... You need only look at and other repositories for learning objects. Rather, I think the movement away from cognitivitism, especially for distance learning educators, to constructivism has created the belief that learning objects may not be the most effective format for instructional design.

Anonymous said...


I have never used learning objects in my work. I remember people talking about them several years ago, but the talk was mainly centered on how from a theory it sounds cool, but not a practical use. I won't say that designers like to reinvent the wheel, but courses often have a specific theme or tone. I have seen pages borrowed from other courses, but not without reworking it to fit the particular course.

I have absolutely no idea how I would package a topic into a learning object if someone had asked me to do so. I assume that it would be more than saving a few PowerPoint slides to a file.

I would be interested as well if someone has been successful using learning objects in their work.

V Yonkers said...

I have been thinking about this post all weekend. I currently am in the process of looking for a tenure track job and started to wonder if I could take any of the blended and online courses I have designed with me.

This semester we switched from Lotus Notes to Blackboard, which really has been difficult. I have had to reconstruct, but also revisualize how the course is designed because of the differences in platforms. In the previous version, I was able to have multiple entry points into the course. However, I am finding that my students find this confusing on Blackboard. They are continually asking me where information is and how to get to it. As a result, I am rethinking what the course "looks like" even though the content is exactly the same (I simply cut and paste it into the new format).

Part of the problem with Learning Objects as opposed to LMS is that learning objects tend to be static. However, there is a need to be able to make a "course" which includes content and instructional design, portable. This is a missing link in the current technology (as your discussion on SCORM indicates). Any suggestions on how to migrate a course to a new location? Will I have to start from scratch as I go to a new school?

Tony Karrer said...

Virginia - the key question is whether you built your courses directly with Bb or did you build them using a separate authoring tool - hence portable. I was just talking with someone at ASTD about this issue and recommending they use a separate authoring tool.

V Yonkers said...

I understand what you are saying Tony, but I think this is a much more complex problem than just having it written with an authoring program. As mentioned in the SCORM discussion, I think the differences in the platforms do not make it possible at this point for courses to move across platforms.

I have my previous version of the course written in Lotus Notes, on my computer at home. I can download this and have a copy of the course that I can move from computer to computer. But as I change LMS's, I need to pretty much start from scratch or cut and paste what I have in order to achieve the instructional design I am looking for within the confines of the new LMS. While the Learning Objects can be portable, they do not capture the instructional design which is dependent upon the technology, the institutional structure, teacher and student needs and interaction, and a number of environmental factors including learning theory trainers are using.

I think much of the software being developed still is in a cookie cutter mode where the designers believe that courses and training modules need to be standard. As mentioned in the SCORM discussion, it is much like word processing was 15 years ago where programs were not able to interconnect. Moving from one computer to another, you would lose formating or functions. I am still waiting for the LMS that allows me to bring my preferred instructional design and easily pop learning objects into the structure, then easily rearrange the structure so that I can bring the course (learning objects, content, and instructional design)easily into another environment.

Unknown said...

Tony Karrer said...

Virginia - I disagree about the portability of SCORM courses. While it's a bit harder to port around SCOs and even harder to design SCOs that are portable from a learning/content perspective, SCORM courses that consist of a single SCO are relatively portable. Sometimes there are small hiccups.

Lotus Notes is not a SCORM authoring tool. If you had written the course using Lectora (for example) instead, then it would have been a completely different thing when you went to integrate into the new LMS.