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Vol 38  No 16
June 29, 2006


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What in the world is a learning object?

By Kristine Hamlyn

If you don’t know what a learning object is, you’re not the only one. In fact, countless definitions of a learning object currently exist. Memorial’s Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT) has adopted the following definition: a pedagogically sound, interoperable, digital resource that is created to assist in the fulfillment of a determined learning objective.

On a very broad scale, a learning object is meant to be something that addresses various learning styles and enhances a student’s ability to learn.

Incorporating a learning object into the classroom or an online course can mean presenting content to the learner in new and novel ways. Meeting expectations, addressing needs and even just presenting data in a way that is not straight from a textbook, can prove to be an added learning benefit.

“One of the main challenges of creating these things is time, but it’s doable,” said Daph Crane, senior instructional designer, DELT. “We have a team of dedicated people, each with separate skills and strengths that work together to develop these learning objects.”

The White Paper on Public Post-Secondary Education identified a learning object repository (LOR) as an opportunity for the post-secondary institutions and the K-12 system to share expertise and resources. An LOR can be looked upon as a “new way” of sharing, providing a central database containing thousands of individual objects. DELT is currently in the planning stages of developing an LOR that will include a variety of learning objects such as an interactive map that may be used for a history course or be adapted for use in an English course. The database will contain objects that can be reused as they are, or with permission, repurposed for a particular situation or needs.

Learning objects can be reused in a variety of learning contexts, when a similar learning objective is addressed and/or may also be used in its original state to address a different learning objective. A good example is the learning object DELT has developed, with significant involvement from English faculty members Bernard O’Dwyer and Bob Hollett, for use in English 3650, Structure of Modern English: Phonology and Morphology.

The object’s purpose is to allow students to hear the English vowel, diphthong and consonant sounds, while viewing an animated representation of how the sound is created through its points and manner of articulation. The object further demonstrates how the tongue, lips and vocal cords interact to create specific sounds. The learning object guides students through the pronunciation of standard modern English sounds articulated by a Canadian speaker, providing students with reliable audio sources with which to compare and practice. The learning objective for this object would be to discern the phonology of modern English structures.

Glen Collins, multi-media specialist, DELT, and Lisa St. Croix, lab facilitator, School of Nursing, will be demonstrating some of Memorial’s learning objects at the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) conference this August. Other objects currently under development within the DELT envelope include IV Therapy for Nursing, Music Theory, and more. Samples of learning objects and interactive work can be viewed at www.distance.mun.ca/media/samples.

Faculty members interested in incorporating learning objects into existing curriculum should contact Gerona McGrath, manager, Design, Development and Production, DELT, at 737-3246.

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