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.