Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Learning Objects -- What do you think?

What is a learning object? I have been working on this question for over three years now. Constantly, two points of view get in focus: one from instructional design perspective that is concerned about “learning”, and another form computer science perspective that is concerned with concept of object as in object-oriented programming practice. A lot of definitions are available, but I am not happy with any of them. Current definitions in literature appeared to me to be concentrating on design of didactic instructional sequences rather than on design of educationally useful, technology-empowered material. I found this to be limited and I asked a broader question: what kinds of material are educationally useful and how technology enables creation and educational application of this material? Through this question I derived classification of learning objects:

1. Information object – any information can be educationally useful if appropriately used in learning tasks.
2. Conceptual model – interactive, visual and often illustrated representation of specific concept form any discipline. These are not just informative, but they can be used as external tools to help us to make decisions, solve problems and learn new things that require that conceptual knowledge.
3. Contextual representations – these are “vehicles” used to deliver certain authentic data to student so that they work with this date, reason about it, investigate it, and draw conclusions. Huge potential for this type of objects is Web 2.0 API for Mashups, eg. use Google Map and local weather condition to provide contextual representations for students for explore weather condition.
4. Practice objects – these allow learners to practice certain skills, drill certain answers, or check recall.
5. Simulation object – allow students to learn how to operate certain machinery and tools, and explore how things work
6. Presentation objects – these are the traditional didactic instruction objects (those which most of definitions of learning objects promote) and any other objects (e.g., PowerPoint presentations) developed with intention to transmit certain body of knowledge to students (who are passive receptors in this context.

Here are some examples (can you classify them in different types): http://www.juicygeography.co.uk/weatheruk.htm
http://www.froguts.com/flash_content/index.html (go to demo and select frog)

You can examine some repositories of educational material such as Merlot (http://www.merlot.org) or look at my own collection at Learnactivity (http://www.learnactivity.com/lo/) to see if any new category emerges according to your understanding.

So, is this classification and complete, comprehensive enough and useful to designers of learning material as well as to teachers to plan their educational use. I usually get suggestion that games or game objects can be another category of learning object, however, somehow I arrived to believe that games are just an another form of practice objects. Intention behind games is to allow practice however underlining rationale is that this practice will be supported by extrinsic motivation triggered by the game itself. Are there is any other type of learning object that can be included? Do you think that my classification includes something that should not be there? Comments and contributions are welcome.


At 12:49 AM, Blogger Maximilian Wat said...


This is a simulation and a practice object of knee surgery. It is an excellent courseware for learners to learn the steps for the operation. It allows learners to make mistakes. It provides the feedback right after the Q&A to correct or reinforce learning. Even though I’m not a doctor, I find it an interest for me to learn.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

I cannot keep my 6-years old daughter away from it. She keepas asking for it.

At 2:30 PM, Blogger Chris said...

After going through your paper "Towards a Useful Classification of Learning Objects", I would like to contribute my two cents here.

Is Game an object?
As you said, game should not be treated as any learning object because it is mere a process in which people interact with the various objects to get the excitement. If there is not any excitement, it is not a game at all!

To elaborate, I will not treat examination as any object because examination is a process in which students interact with the questions to make themselves regurgitate (or vomit) what they have forced into their mind through their eyes.

Are there any other type of learning object that can be included?
If we have not any OO (object-oriented or object-based) concept before, it may not be easy to understand why the pictures, icons, etc are treated as objects.

For me, I may not define objects by their purposes. I may define objects by their properties or behaviour because any single object can have different attributes in different scnearios.

For example, an image of a policeman/fireman can be an information or presentation object in a learning session. But in a game or quiz, the same image can become a practice object for the users. Hence we may say that it is the properties of the objects that determine its role in the model.

In summary, my idea is as follows:

-> presentation method/property
-> practice method/property
-> information method/property

By manipulating the methods and values of the properties, interactive programmers can model the same static object into different learning objects according to the learning needs in the scenario.

Just my two cents only!

At 11:37 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Great points Chris. Just to add, digital image as just a image is not sufisient condition for something to be a leanring object. Whjat is in it is what defines it as a leanring object.


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