Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Using Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs) to Share International Experiences: Faculty Perceptions and Best Practices in a College of Agriculture1

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Using Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs) to Share International Experiences: Faculty Perceptions and Best Practices in a College of Agriculture1

Article excerpt

Abstract

Educators across colleges of agriculture continue to strive to improve the educational experience for students. The use of reusable learning objects (RLOs) is one method that is being pursued. For the purpose of this study, an RLO was defined as a short (i.e., 5-15 minutes), media-based instructional package that included a learning objective, content, media (pictures, videos, and/or audio) and an assessment. This study was grounded by Kolb's theory of experiential learning in the collection of preflection and reflection responses from participants and the area of instructional design in regard to the development of reusable learning objects. The purpose was to investigate faculty perceptions of RLOs and by doing so, document challenges to creating RLOs and determine best practices for development and use in order to internationalize agricultural curriculum. Qualitative research consisting of face-to-face, semi-structured pre- and post-interviews was employed. Respondents reported positive perceptions of RLOs both prior to and after their engagement in the development process. This study revealed recommendations for practice that can encourage the development and use of reusable learning objects within colleges of agriculture.

Introduction

Educators across colleges of agriculture continue to strive to improve the educational experience for students. The sharing of international experiences by faculty with students is one example of how education can be improved. The use of reusable learning objects is one method among others, such as students' oral verbalization (Pate and Miller, 2011), inquiry-based instruction (Thoron et al., 2011), experiential learning (WulffRisner and Stewart, 1997), "popular culture media" such as music and movies (Bruce and Ewing, 2009, p. 8) and virtual simulation (Rhoades et al., 2009), that is being pursued to improve education. RLOs are commonly defined and identified in a variety of ways. The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.) broadly defined a learning object as anything that could be used for education (2002). A more specific definition stated that learning objects are "generally understood to be digital and multimedia-based, which can be reused and - in some cases - combined with other learning objects to form larger pieces of instruction " (Farha, 2009, p. 2). Each learning object should be specific to one topic (Boyle, 2003). Some authors have indicated that RLOs are small, only large enough to include, at the most, a few related ideas (Conlan et al., 2002; Polsani, 2003). One author indicated that length can vary (Downes, 2001) based on how many ideas were covered and how complex each idea was, however they should be independent of other related content (Boyle, 2003).

Researchers have articulated that an RLO is an object that can come in all shapes and forms (Downes, 2001; Farha, 2009; Muzio et al., 2002; Polsani, 2003). Therefore, there is some ambiguity involved when defining an RLO because of the vast differences in characteristics (Polsani, 2003; Sicilia and Lytras, 2002). For the purpose of this study, an RLO was defined as a short (i.e., 5-15 minutes), media-based instructional package that included a learning objective, content, media (pictures, videos, and/or audio) and an assessment.

Benefits of Reusable Learning Objects

Being proficient in information and communication technology is incredibly important for students enrolled in a college of agriculture, both in class and after graduation (Cox et al., 2011). Internet use in colleges of agriculture has greatly benefited both instructors and students by facilitating communication between the two groups, allowing access to a greater range of resources for supplementing lectures and helping make the use of new technologies possible. However, colleges and faculty should keep in mind that Internet resources should be carefully examined for quality (Molnar and Fields, 2004; Rhoades et al. …

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