What are Learning Objects?

Learning objects are assemblies of audio, graphic, animation and other digital files and materials that are intended to be reusable in a variety of ways, and easily combined into higher-level instructional components such as lessons and modules. The primary purpose behind the development and use of learning objects is to increase access to quality content, and to avoid wasteful replications of effort by making that content usable in a variety of contexts. The most common view is that a learning object is a collection of digital materials — pictures, documents, simulations — coupled with a clear and measurable learning objective or designed to support a learning process. This view distinguishes a learning object from an “information object” (akin to a simple fact) — which might have an illustration or other materials attached to it — or from “a content object” such as a video or audio clip, picture, animation, or text document. The key distinguishing feature between these kinds of objects and a learning object is the clear connection to a learning process. This definition is built on the assumption that by combining learning objects in different ways, higher-level learning goals can be met, and ultimately, entire courses constructed.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the museums you know best?

  • The technology would be relevant for creating educational tools for museum educators to use in authoring flexible, customizable and interactive student/visitor learning experiences. Museums currently use a number of "simpler" methods of curriculum delivery especially in collaboration with public schools, but the much richer content and experiences offered by Learning Objects, which feature multiple media and application delivery methods, and can afford more immersive, memorable, and enjoyable learning experiences. - david.dean david.dean May 1, 2010
  • Totally! As the cost of producing learning contents in all formats is getting higher, idea of "repurposing" and "reusing" any produced media is critical. Any educational content should made available individually aside from its original design as a single learning-object, rather than locked in one area e.g. themed-based online exhibit or flashed-based learning game. Each individual learning object can be placed in a searchable database and allow users to find the information based on their needs. Museums should also treat its digital contents as valuable digital assets. Recently I have noticed there are many digital contents (online exhibits, games, resources, etc.) created by museums in early 1990s, have dropped off the Internet for no reason. I have few speculations but not sure why. It can be those data got lost during system migration, change of programing format, etc. Image those were funded projects ranging from several thousands to hundred of thousands dollars. It is a shame. I will advocate the preservation and conservation of digital learning content. - herminia.din herminia.din May 3, 2010
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • Information objects and content objects currently exist and are used by museums effectively. Information objects as simple as object labels afford a level of content that is often below the desires of the visitor. Content objects offer similarly unsatisfying level of information for visitors. By creating Learning Objects that incorporate aspects of both of the above, plus adding the richness of well-conceived and constructed educational goals and methods to the mix, will allow for objects that can be both modular and essentially single-purposed in nature. By connecting and combining such learning objects, new curricula can be created to meet specific needs, or create entirely new connections thus producing as yet to be conceptualized outcomes. From the standpoint of museum education, this would establish a "library" of objects that can be drawn upon to create learning experiences for school groups, visitors, and others. - david.dean david.dean May 1, 2010
  • quite honestly, I think if LOs were going to have an impact on museum education departments' habits they would have done so by now. Or at least, they'll have to be a whole lot more embedded in the practices of schools etc before they take root in museums. Having said that the practices of the (now defunct) National Grid for Learning in the UK were very learning object-y, and some museums (including my own, the Museum of London) used their metadata generator tool for cataloguing their online learning resources. I'd need to do some research to remind myself of the details! It's worth mentioning Lexara's Magic Studio (http://www.magicstudio.com/), which is a tool for authoring interactives such as timelines, which has a version pitched at schools and has I believe some capabilities for dealing with SCORM. It partners with some cultural heritage organisations which channel content through it, and some (including MOL) use it for creating interactives. So I guess it's worth investigating a model like this, where a third party enables the creation of "learning objects", mediates them in a marketplace to an educational audience, and incedentally wraps them up in SCORM. (declaration of interest: I'm connected to Lexara through my PhD co-supervisor) Another relevant project: SchoolsNet in Europe, which has links to Europeana and also runs the MELT project (http://info.melt-project.eu/ww/en/pub/melt_project/welcome.htm), which seems to be a Learning Object registry. The link to Europeana is especially significant for museums, although we'll have to see how it pans out. I know that Europeana has schools etc as a key target audience and I suspect that much of its value-added offer will involve education. Whether Learning Objects figure is another matter. - jeremy.ottevanger jeremy.ottevanger May 2, 2010

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • oops, see above. MELT, Magic Studio, perhaps look back at the National Grid for Learning (BECTA may still carry the torch?). Ooh, and SILVER of course http://www.silvereducation.org/ - jeremy.ottevanger jeremy.ottevanger May 2, 2010
  • Ology, http://www.amnh.org/ology at the American Museum of Natural History. I have been following the Ology site since its creation in 2001. Up to today, Ology site provides users with 318 Ology Cards to collect, and user can create a project, which is a new knowledge from a learner's point of view, using those cards. - herminia.din herminia.din May 3, 2010

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