Issues in Reusing Online Resources: Chapter 1

Littlejohn, Allison (2003). Issues in Reusing Online Resources: Chapter 1. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2013(1)



This is an era marked by rapid developments in three different educational arenas -- access, lifelong learning and e-learning. In both developed and developing countries there is a growing demand for access to education... Alongside this growing demand for access, increased numbers of adults are returning to colleges and universities for additional education and training (CIHE, 2002). Lifelong learning has come of age, brought about by changes in attitudes to learning and in employment patterns, where jobs and careers are recast many times during a lifespan. Permeating and supporting these first two developments, in access and lifelong learning, are developments in information and communication technologies (ICT). New technologies are beginning to transform how higher education is organized and delivered both on campus and at a distance. E-learning affords new opportunities to increase flexibility in time and location of study, in forms of communication (for example, asynchronous discussions) and types of interaction...

Although e-learning has the potential to provide the kinds of flexibility required by wider access and lifelong learning there are some major obstacles. On the one hand, wider access and lifelong learning require vast increases in specially designed course materials to satisfy the greater range of demands for learning. On the other hand, creating the digital resources necessary for online course delivery requires considerable investment, a factor that makes resource development only viable for courses with large student numbers or sizeable budgets. In order to address this difficulty, numerous national and international initiatives have been funded to investigate ways in which digital learning resources might be developed, shared and reused by teachers and learners around the world (so as to benefit from economies of scale). Behind these initiatives lies a vision of a future in which reusable resources (or 'learning objects' as they are called) could comprise a new currency of exchange within a learning economy. Learning objects, produced by publishers, teachers, support staff and students themselves, would be stored in digital repositories, where they could be easily accessed, recombined and reused within online courses.

However, despite this vision, the idea of reusing electronic resources is more complex than the object economy scenario, outlined above, may suggest. The next section identifies seven issues associated with the reuse and sharing of resources. These sections focus on educational design, the need for standards, and on the culture and organization that would be necessary in institutions (and across institutions) if reuse were to become a reality.

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