Community Dimensions of Learning Object Repositories

Margaryan, Anoush and Littlejohn, Allison (2006). Community Dimensions of Learning Object Repositories. D-Lib Magazine, 12(3)



Imagine a world in which learners and faculty can collaboratively build knowledge by sourcing, exchanging, adapting, reusing and integrating a range of learning resources. Soon we won't have to imagine this scenario, since a range of institutions and organisations globally are setting up repositories to support the sharing of Learning Objects (LOs): granular, digital resources developed to support learners in achieving a single learning goal (IEEE, 2001; Koper, 2001; Wiley, 2000). The educational rationale is that a single set of resources can be restructured to support different pedagogical approaches. It is argued that individual, granular resources allow for maximum reuse across a range of contexts. At the same time aggregation of resources enables contextualisation within particular learning situations (Duncan, 2003). While Learning Object Repositories (LORs) can facilitate storage, searching and retrieval of individual and aggregated resources, few of LO resource collections are achieving their full potential.

A key problem is that LORs, like many other learning technology innovations, are often designed to exploit the capabilities of the technology, rather than to meet learners' need. This focus on technology has resulted in an emphasis on issues such as interoperability standards, aggregation of learning objects, resource description, discovery and delivery at the expense of softer, social factors.

The 'Community Dimensions of Learning Object Repositories' (CD-LOR) project aims to reverse this trend by identifying important pedagogical, social, and organisational factors that inhibit effective use of LORs. CD-LOR is funded by the UK's Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC, the Government Organisation responsible for UK academic networks) to identify and analyse the factors that influence the uptake and implementation of learning object repositories in support of teaching and learning within a diverse range of learning communities. The project is identifying key barriers and enablers to the implementation of LORs to support learning within communities and mapping these against a range of types of LOR communities. Such communities include those based in individual and federated institutions and those that exist across institutions regionally, nationally or internationally, for example discipline-based communities, or communities coalescing around use in teaching and learning of particular formats, such as sound files.

The project team are currently creating a typology of repositories and communities and mapping the characteristics of these communities with respect to their use of the repositories. We anticipate this mapping will form the basis for development of use cases, case studies, and guidelines on implementation of learning object repositories, as well as institution-wide use cases linking LORs to wider information management processes. A range of potential solutions to barriers will be developed and tested within existing communities. We also aim to produce recommendations for institutional managers on wider policy, strategy, systems and workflow issues and make recommendations to JISC for ongoing research and development.

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