Learning Theory and Instructional Design Using Learning Objects

Article excerpt

Instructional System Development (ISD) is a set of procedures for systematically designing and developing instruction. A solid foundation in learning theory is an essential element in the application of ISD. One question that one might ask is whether there is one best learning theory for instructional design using learning objects (LOs). Depending on the learners and the situation, different learning theories may apply. The authors do not recommended one particular theory for the design of instruction based on LOs, but rather the adoption of an eclectic approach to learning theory in the design of instruction using LOs. In this work, an overview of the ISD methodology that is based on e-learning Objects (ISD-MeLO) is given. This proposed methodology, which incorporates principles from different learning schools, is currently being tested by K-12 teachers from public schools, as well as instructional designers from private companies in Brazil.

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SECTION 1

INTRODUCTION

The future of educational technology is now calling for renewing traditional instructional models (Hamel & Ryan-Jones, 2002). The basic concept lies in the possibility of reusing the same pedagogical content in different instructional contexts. Therefore, instructional content designed independently from context, similar to objects in object-oriented programming environments, can now be shared with other users, recombined with other objects, or redesigned by other instructional developers with possible time and cost savings.

In a previous work, the focus was on the structural aspects of learning objects (LOs) (Baruque, Porto, & Melo, 2003). A methodology based on ISD incorporating the LO paradigm was proposed. The concept was that there should be a systematic approach to developing instruction rather than an ad-hoc one. ISD is rooted in the Information Systems area, although it is applied to the educational arena. Similarly, the object-orientation paradigm, so important in the Information Systems area, is now being used in the educational area. This allows for modularity and reusability of educational contents. This is the object aspect of the LO paradigm. The other aspect--learning--is the major focus of this work. This means that an LO should have the right semantic of learning. A thorough understanding of what learning is becomes crucial. To this end, it is imperative that a methodology to design educational content based on LO be grounded in learning theories.

Depending on the context and the nature of the audience, a general approach seems to be more useful than a specific one. An eclectic approach to learning theory is proposed so that pedagogical principles from different learning schools can support the methodology. The experience with the PGL (Partnership in Global Learning) project (PGL, 2004), where the audience encompasses a variety of user profiles, reinforces the concept that an eclectic approach to theory seems to be more satisfactory. As stated in Martinez (2003), learners have different orientations: they can be transforming, performing, or conforming learners. This requires different strategies; therefore, an eclectic methodology could be considered the middle ground between standardization and personalization.

In the literature, there are many definitions of a learning object to be found. As defined in Ruttenbur, Spickler, & Lurie (2000) and as considered by many authors, an LO can be viewed as a small "chunk" of learning content that focuses on a specific learning objective. The learning objects can contain one or many components, including text, video, images, or the like. LOs may be seen as building blocks that, depending on the way they are combined, may constitute lessons, modules, or courses. In this paper, LOs are considered as structures similar to what is proposed in Cisco (2001). How they should be assembled in a collection is at the discretion of the instructional designer or the student. …