A learning objects presentation, or a cry for help?

Last week I gave a presentation on reusable media for a group of educators at UBC’s Faculty of Science.

I did my best to give a talk that used as little learning object lingo as possible, and left aside any detailed discussion of standards and metadata. It went reasonably well — and my co-presenter Joseph Dietz gave a good demonstration of a Biology Image database he has developed (not open access, sadly). But to be frank, it didn’t feel quite right to me. It’s not as if the audience pelted us with rocks and garbage, but my gut tells me that the spiel is not where it needs to be to make a compelling case why people (especially faculty) should care about reusable media, much less change their practice to accomodate it.

In that spirit, I’ll link to the presentation text (HTML)… if anybody has any thoughts on my content or on my approach, I’d appreciate some scathing (hopefully constructive) criticism — either in the comments field below or by email. Your feedback would be gratefully accepted.

I referred to the following sites in the course of 45 minutes of babbling…

*The National Science Digital Library
* The eduSource consortium
* The CAREO repository system
* The Universitas 21 Learning Resource Catalogue
* Creative Commons — open source licensing
* The UBC – University Industry Liaison Office has launched Flintbox, a selection of IT technologies that are available for licensing at the UILO. They offer secure hosting, and collect payment in exchange for 10% of the cuts.

If you like the content, feel free to repurpose it. But most of all I’d appreciate ideas on how to promote the potential benefits of this approach without coming across as a mindless booster.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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4 Responses to A learning objects presentation, or a cry for help?

  1. David Wiley says:

    “But most of all I’d appreciate ideas on how to promote the potential benefits of this approach without coming across as a mindless booster.”

    There’s nothing that helps this more than giving an honest critique of LOs right up front. Once you can demonstrate that you know what’s realistically possible and what just plain isn’t, you can make some progress. This is why we ended up spending time in a very critical place when I visited you last week…

  2. Scott Leslie says:

    Hey Brian, one thing that struck me (and maybe this is too basic an approach for your audience or maybe you were already doing this in the talk itself,) is to frame the discussion in terms of the real problems instructors face that learning objects might help address. Basic things like authoring content once that needs to be delivered to 3 different sections of a course and not having to make edits in three locations, or the portability of *their* content (and that’s a whole nother kettle of fish) in the event they need to change institutions, and hence possibly change CMSes. There are more, there *has* to be more, otherwise this begins to look suspiciously like a technology in search of a problem to solve (and there is that too, I think). I guess the other thing is to maybe highlight, at a personal level rather than an institutional level, the opportunities that authoring content in a standard re-usable format offers – e.g. at a certain point in the future you may not be able to vend any of your content if it’s not packaged like this, and packaging it like this may offer you distribution channels you hadn’t even seen before. I don’t know if this is addressing the problem you were sensing in the talk, but it strikes me that when it comes to technology adoption, we need to re-state the technology’s usefulness from the user perspective first, as it is them whom we are asking to adopt that technology. Hope this helps, cheers, Scott.

  3. Brian, people really do read your blog!

    Isn’t one of the problems that faculty have yet to be persuaded what’s in it for them besides the shady promise of reusability?

    Also, don’t many teachers design in a highly contextualized environment, i.e. designing for the moment? My interpretation of learning objects is that you’re asked not to design for THE moment but for A moment. I’m lousy at articulating this…sigh.

    Suggestions for promotion without boosterism? Examples, examples, examples. Not how a learning object is supposed to work but how it has worked, and modestly.


  4. Brian, I’ve sort of stumbled across this when I present/talk about learning objects (and the more eye-glazing topic of learning object repositories).

    People don’t care about the theory.

    They don’t care about the promise.

    They DO care about what it can do for THEM, as individuals first and foremost, and, secondarily, in their practice (whatever that might be).

    What I’ve found as one of the best ways to get people interested in the topic is to do a round-trip “Day in the Life of a Learning Object” to show how it can be created, reused, presented, shared, collected, discussed, etc…

    That sounds pretty contrived, but it gives folks something concrete to hook onto. They can follow a physical thing much more readily than a theoretical construct.

    Obviously, you don’t want to trump it up too much with what _could_ happen to a LO, or a user in a LOR, but following a typical create-publish-find-view-share type of thing is pretty typical of how LORs would be used (well, CAREO at least…)

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