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Pedagogic Context
Existing learning technology interoperability standards are designed to ensure the reusability of educational content within different authoring environments, content repositories and delivery platforms such as virtual and managed learning environments (VLEs/MLEs). Emerging learning technology interoperability specifications, in particular IMS Simple Sequencing and IMS Learning Design, provide pedagogical frameworks which enable significantly more effective use of learning resources. These specifications are therefore relevant to the basis of the X4L Programme, which focuses on pedagogical outcomes.
 
Learning Objects - Why?
The degree to which educational content can be reused and re-purposed depends on how it is stored, made available, and delivered to the academic user community. The UK FE/HE sector has access to a wide range of ICT-supported teaching and learning resources. However much of this valuable material is not reaching a wide audience and fail to fulfill its full educational potential. This represents a significant loss in terms of the investment of teaching and learning resources. Common barriers to the reuse and adoption of materials include resources that are too large and monolithic, are tailored to a single institution or department's requirements, that are only able to address a specific learning scenario or are bound to a single delivery platform (Silviter et al, 1995, p.23; Koper, 2000, p. 23).

One strategy which offers a potential solution to these problems is to re-purpose existing resources to form 'learning objects'. A learning object could be defined as:

"an entity, digital or non-digital, that can be used, re-used, or referenced during technology supported learning" (Koper, 2001).

To be truly reusable, learning objects must also be accessible, editable and reconfigurable. Users should be able locate objects, change unsuitable components, combine them in a variety of different organisational structures and exchange them among heterogeneous content management systems and VLEs. The only way that these goals can be achieved is to produce, package and deliver learning objects together with references to the associated learning services (assessment, chat etc.), in a format that complies with learning technology interoperability standards and specifications - this is the main objective of RELOAD.

Lesson Plans, Learning Design
Assembling learning objects per se does not necessarily entail their validity and reusability from an educational perspective. Educational content developers should also be able to describe learning objects according to their "different functions in the context of real education" (Koper, 2001, p. 5), specify learning activities and outcomes, and make the description explicit as reusable 'lesson plans' for different learning scenarios and environments. This is the main purpose for implementing a 'lesson plan' editing facility using the IMS Learning Design Specification in the proposed tools. Learning Design (specification) is based on the established method for modeling learning activities - EML, and supports multiple users acting multiple roles, which involve support staff and learners, working collaboratively in groups, in 'learning-flows'. The specification also has the capability to support personalised learning through support for learner profiles. Digital resources can be used in pedagogically diverse ways, beyond the conventional use by an individual learner working with the resources in isolation. As a result, Learning Design may become the key specification for actually fulfilling the various needs of the X4L Strand A projects, and is therefore considered for the tool developments in RELOAD.