Listening to John Bell present his paper (Bell, 2003) at the Australasian Computing Education conference left me wondering about yet another word in the IT lexicon that had taken on a different and yet overlapping meaning. The word was "object". Bell and many others, in the context of computer systems built to support the use of learning objects (LOs), do not mention objectorientation. Yet, the overlapping concepts behind learning objects and object orientation do suggest that object-orientation would be an appropriate approach to use.
From the perspective of a learning object repository, a learning object (LO) is any material digital or non-digital that is designed and supplied to aid teaching and learning. Some people limit the definition to only digital media as LOs are typically delivered electronically. From the point of view of the community based learning object repository a LO can be of any size, of any type, in digital or non-digital form for use, and digitally stored, such as, a five-minute in-class exercise, the lesson plan for a two-hour class, a set of lecture notes on a topic, or a complete multimedia interactive course. In this early stage of development we worked with the term "courseware" rather than "learning object" to differentiate it from "software object". From the perspective of the object-oriented paradigm, a LO is an encapsulated, polymorphic, reusable thing; characteristics or concepts that are typical of a software object. This commonality is one reason for pursuing an object-oriented community-based learning object repository.
There is recognition that scholarship in university teaching requires better and more formal recognition than it currently receives (Taylor & Richardson, 2001). The use of double blind peer review for the LO repository was chosen as it emulates the review process of respected research publications. A double blind peer review process is when the author, or creator, and reviewer remain anonymous. The LO creator becomes known when the LO is released to the public, i.e. the community of educators.
The community-based aspect of the LO repository is an attempt at addressing a major problem facing the use of learning objects. The Taylor project (Taylor & Richardson, 2001) has stalled at the second stage because it is not being used. It also contains bottlenecks in the review process, relying on journal editors to mediate the open, not blind, review process. The reliance on a community to make the LO repository work is an idea worth pursuing.
The ideas of object orientation, double blind peer review, and community-based management are combined to develop a LO repository software product. This paper describes this product and so contributes to the ongoing development of workable learning object repositories.
Overview of the Repository
An overview of the repository is presented followed by the processes to submit and review LOs. The community based LO repository has two sides, a private side and a public side, shown in Figure 1. The private side is where submissions and reviews of LOs are supported. The public side is where learning objects are downloaded or connected for use by educators. The roles of editors, moderators, administrators, hosts, critics, and requestors are necessary, though at this stage not included in the product. The LO submission process has received the most attention. Other modules currently being attention. Other modules currently being developed are the review process and email messaging.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
The automation of as many processes as possible, thus minimizing the human intervention required, such as messaging, is also a feature of this LO repository. The ability of the repository to respond to triggers other than human interaction is considered essential to its success.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Learning Object Submission and Review Processes
LO submission and review are the critical processes on the private side of the LO repository. …