Design, Development, and Implementation of an Open Source Learning Object Repository (OSLOR)

Article excerpt

Introduction

Learning Objects (LOs) are assumed to exhibit at least three essential characteristics: 1) accessibility, 2) interoperability, and 3) reusability. Du Plessis & Koohang (2005) stated that learning objects' accessibility, interoperability, and reusability are interrelated. Accessibility means that the users can easily access learning objects in various platforms. Accessibility is independent of user experience and location. Accessibility depends on interoperability to improve reusability.

Reusability means that a leaning object can be used over and over in various instructional contexts. Learning object reusability can be attained with sound accessibility and interoperability. A set of standards assure the interoperability of LO thus ease their accessibility. Below is a list of organizations that work on learning objects standards:

* IEEE LO Metadata (LOM) Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC)

* Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative Shareable Courseware Object Reference Model (SCORM)

* IMS (Instructional Management System) Global Learning Consortium

* The Dublin Core: Metadata for Electronic Resources

The three essential characteristics, accessibility, interoperability, and reusability meet the needs of learners, instructors, and content developers by providing "chunks" of learning content (i.e. LOs) that may be obtained and used as needed either alone or in combination with other content (c.f. Downes, 2001; Koppi, 2003 as cited in Mohan, 2006; Mohan, 2004, 2006). This is grounded in the practical reality of the convergence of two phenomena: 1) the rise of ubiquitous computing and 2) the emergence of object oriented programming. It is also grounded in the recognition that the lines of demarcation between academic disciplines are becoming increasingly blurred - learning content based in one discipline may often be applicable in or may be foundational to another discipline, e.g. knowledge of mathematics is essential to computer science. Finally, this goal is grounded in the concept that learning is a lifelong pursuit and that a key aspect of lifelong learning is a learner's capacity to become "self-managed," i.e. able to acquire and comprehend content with or without facilitation or direct instruction (c.f. Downes, 2006).

What is a Learning Object?

Literature has documented various definitions of LO. For example, Downes (2003), Friesen, (2001), and IEEE, (2002) believe that a learning object is either digital or non-digital whereas Wiley (1999) asserted that a learning object is digital in nature.

Harman and Koohang (2005) asserted that "a learning object is not merely a chunk of information packaged to be used in instructional settings. A learning object, therefore, can include anything that has pedagogical value--digital or non-digital such as a case study, a film, a simulation, an audio, a video, an animation, a graphic image, a map, a book, or a discussion board so long as the object can be contextualized by individual learners. The learner must be able to make meaningful connections between the learning object and his/her experiences or knowledge he/she previously mastered. "

For the purposes of this paper we choose to echo the definition of LO by Harman and Koohang (2005) focusing on two points--1) the LOs are digital, i.e., they are stored in digital form in LOR and 2) they must have educational intent and be easily contextualized by users.

What is a Learning Object Repository?

For the purpose of this paper, we limit our discussion to digital repositories. A digital repository is "any collection of resources that are accessible via a network without prior knowledge of the structure of the collection." (IMS Global Learning Consortium, 2003).

According to Downes (2002) there are two major forms of LORs--one containing both the learning objects and learning object metadata (the LOR locates and delivers the LOs) and the other consisting of only the learning object metadata (the LOR locates LOs that are placed elsewhere). …

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