Why you shouldn’t use learning objects, and why you should

I try to submit a monthly piece for a newsletter here at UBC. It’s a useful exercise for me to write through my work with a broader audience in mind, and I’m grateful for the forum — but man, it can be stressful sometimes. I struggle with the deadlines and the space requirements, and am fortunate that the newsletter has a such a talented and understanding editor in Krista Charbonneau.

Last month I wrote a boring piece on LO Repositories and UBC. I knew it was dull read, so like an idiot I concluded the article promising that “next month” I would address some of the toughest challenges concerning LO adoption: “connecting educational multimedia production to pedagogy, addressing intellectual property concerns, and the considerable effort required to identify and catalogue learning objects

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 Why you shouldn’t use learning objects, and why you should

  1. Howard says:

    I have actually managed elearning projects that have attempted re-use of material (LOs?) varying from text to Flash, jpg, wav, mp3, and other formats. It’s a real chore because the course ends up being a Frankenstein creation of LOs intended for varying purposes. Frankenstein had a wrestler’s arm, a dancer’s leg, an accountant’s head, a bricklayer’s hand, and the overall creation had a jerky, dysfunctional presence. Courseware created using text from different writing styles, assessment questions from different sources, and even photos or sound bytes, comes off similarly. The “smoothing out” work can be considerable and I’ve often resorted to just doing the whole thing from scratch. Clients and customers do not review Frankenstein courses positively even though there may have been 50% time savings in creation.

  2. Zach Chandler says:

    I recently discovered your blog, and read the final draft of this article submitted for the newsletter shortly thereafter. Good stuff. I also liked this bit you left out though:


    does this mean that the learning object economy heralded a few years ago by zealots has become a reality? Are we enjoying unlimited access to free, high quality educational multimedia, delivered seamlessly via systems that tailor customized content and delivery to the individual learner? Have learning objects transformed education?

    To answer these questions in order: no, no and no.


    I’m one of the converted, who plans to be working in the trenches long after the LO buzz subsides and the reality sets in. What are your thoughts about metadata schemae? Is SCORM still a going concern? What can we do to make authoring easier? The LOT project you mention sounds very promising.

  3. Brian Lamb says:

    Zach, thanks for taking the time to offer your comments. The cut you refer to was made by the newsletter editors, not by me. I wasn’t too thrilled by that particular decision, but in general they do such a good job of salvaging my copy that I rarely argue over their changes.

    As far as metadata schema goes… I don’t have one single philosophy. Obviously, present schemas and tools are too labour-intensive for comprehensive tagging of every object that gets created… but then again, if somebody spends a pile of money painstakingly building an expensive piece of instruction, it makes sense to thoroughly catalogue it using a stable and widely adopted standard. I’m personally more interested in the quick and dirty discovery mechanisms that seem to be emerging from online communities (trackback, RSS, etc…) but that doesn’t mean that more rigorous schemas don’t have their place.

    As far as SCORM goes, I’m heartened that the current generation of LMS’s and CMS’s increasingly seem to support the easy export of content as standards-compliant packages — as I noted in the piece. I like standards that require no knowledge from typical users best of all, and that seems to be developing. I must confess in their current incarnations, I find the spec to be rather intimidating, and I hesitate to throw it in front of faculty who already have concerns about sharing and reusing digital resources.

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