The Transformation of Educational Publishing: The Emergence and Growth of a Teacher-Centered, Learning-Object Environment

Article excerpt

Some people would have us believe that the technology itself is the answer to all of education's ills. "Just get the distribution right," they say, "and everyone will have access to the best learning materials." The truth is that if technology alone appears to be the answer, then perhaps we're not asking the fight questions. But technology, while it provides a means of distribution unthinkable even a decade ago, must be combined with the fight content in the fight format and developed with close cooperation of the education community.

Next Generation E-learning Environments

The boom in e-learning on the Internet has, so far, been unable to significantly enhance our nation's education and training infrastructure. Despite advances in technologies and adoption of digital content standards, the e-learning industry has largely failed to achieve the promise that innovative instructors and institutions, corporations, and government agencies had envisioned.

Why? Outmoded supply-oriented, text-based approaches to a "one-size-fits-all" homogeneous learning model, proprietary technology solutions, linear telecourses and online courseware that characterize the current e-learning industry, have been expensive solutions which inhibit the academic achievement that new technology originally sought to support. Most important, these systems also take control out of the hands of teachers and prevent them and their institutions from locating, evaluating, selecting, acquiring, and aggregating Web-based learning objects. Reusable modules of digital information are the building blocks of e-learning content that learners access to achieve the promise of "anytime, anyplace, at-any-pace" learning.

With significant enabling technologies and tools increasingly in place, decreased costs of storage and bandwidth, and student-to-computer ratios at an all-time low, the market is at a "tipping point"--the front end of a dramatic inflection point in the market that is setting the stage for the transformation of publishing in the next decade. The education market is indeed poised for the development of a demand-oriented world where instructors and institutions can evaluate, buy, or sell digital learning content, products, and services with ease and security. In addition, growth in this next-generation learning environment will allow public television (PTV) producing stations, PTV program distributors, and commercial publishers to sell their content, thus avoiding the cost of direct contractual relationships with each buyer while assuring that their proprietary content will be securely distributed.

Learning Objects Defined

Let's look closer at the concept of the "learning object." An object is a genetic term for reusable data or application chunks.

* Learning objects are chunks (core components) of data about curriculum, instruction, and assessment objects.

* Curriculum objects will mean statements of expectation of what students should know, value, and be able to do at target ages, similar to an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

* Instructional objects will mean plans for student learning broken down into the hierarchy of course, unit, lesson, activity, and assignment.

* Assessment objects are assignments broken down into specific items, each intended to trigger student work, which, in turn, is assessed by a scoring rubric, to produce a graded result.

Only by documenting definitions and relationships of key terms in commonly understood language can technical specification efforts such as the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF), Instructional Management System (IMS), and others--known as SCORM, IEEE, LOM--be used for global learning efforts. *

The Future of Content

According to Content Critical, a 2000 study by the University of California, Berkeley, printed content--books, magazines, newspapers, and other forms of commercial and institutional print--represents only 0. …