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Trends and Issues: The Impact of Learning Objects

Definitions and Descriptions of Learning Objects (LOs)

As Instructional Designers, businesses, and schools become more involved in the development of eLearning, various definitions have evolved to explain LOs. One article from the zdev Corporation discusses Learning Objects from a philosophical point of view, “Learning Objects are designed to be used in multiple training contexts, aim to increase the flexibility of training, and make updating courses much easier to manage. Update a part of a learning object and the change should appear in any course using that Learning Object” (http://www.zdev.com/definitions/cms/learningObjects, nd.).

Wiley writes about the following four definitions of learning objects in his book “The Instructional Use of Learning Objects” (2002):

  • NETg.Inc, a CBT vendor, describes LOs as NETg learning objects, and defines it in three parts: a learning objective, a unit of instruction that teaches the objective and a unit of assessment that measures the objective (pg. 5).
  • Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) states that, "For this standard, a learning object is defined as any entity, digital or non-digital, that may be used for learning, education, and training" (pg. 5).
  • NSF-funded Educational Objects Economy (EOE) describes a LO as Java Applets that is an “Object-oriented approach to computer-assisted instruction” (pg. 5).
  • David Wiley, a well-respected researcher/practitioner in the area of learning objects, defines Learning Objects as any digital resource that can be reused to support learning. This definition includes anything that can be delivered across the network on demand, large or small, in multiple dimensions (pg. 6).

In the educational field LOs are fast becoming a great way to get small activities of learning across to students as well as stringing LOs together to teach whole courses. Bratina, Hayes, and Blumsack state, “Learning objects are not a recent innovation. However, the way in which educators create and categorize them is changing. The term "learning object" originates from "object-oriented programming" and essentially describes an object that is designed for a specific purpose (to facilitate learning, in this case) and can be categorized by using metadata (i.e., data about data). This categorization enables users to search for, access, and reuse objects as needed. Reusing learning objects makes online learning more cost effective (http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=961, 2002).

To view a video from the University of Calgary that gives a definition of LOs, visit this website - http://commons.ucalgary.ca/showcasetv/displayVideo?movieID=1000068&videoID=1000022

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