Disposable Learning Objects

I’ve been spending much of the last eight months working on two, interconnected projects. The one, the Virtual Research Enviornment, is an attempt to create an open source cocktail of software, grounded by an institutional repository, that can integrate the research interests or a given researcher with their educational and collaborative needs. The other (still pending final funding approval) is an attempt to use that very research environment to support a K-12 project where kids will be doing historical, archival work and taking the fruits of that work to a virtual world.

Big bites. both.

As you might imagine one of the big issues that we’re confronting is training. And not, as too many training systems do, stop at simply ‘demonstrating the tools’ but actually showing how to use them effectively in a context. This problem is further complexified by the fact that we are following an iterative development model. We aren’t going to know 6 months ahead of time, what’s going to be needed. A well designed, well thought out piece, might get designed and then not needed. Which either means that your goals change to fit your objects or you just have to start over.

The solution? The disposable learning object.

Create a training system so simple, so semantically automated, that in the time it takes to explain a concept you have created the learning object for it. The system to cataloguing those learning objects, then, also has to be simple enough that storing it takes little to no time at all.

So, if you have just learned how to do something, lets say create a del.ico.us account, you then do it one more time (to reinforce the memory) and screencast the process… talking your way through it. You then upload it (hopefully point and click) to your educational site giving some basic information. (URLs description some free tagging) and then the server gets to work. It should strip the available metadata from the file, convert it to a usable format and semantically tie it in with like objects. (we’re also contemplating a workflow that then has an ‘expert’ (whatever that might mean) who will leaf through those for potential adoption into a more permanent life in the more traditional archive.

All that babbling and only five minutes of work. It becomes part of the student’s job to contribute to the curriculum. The pedagogical advantages to this are obvious. Besides the advantage of just doing a training piece more than once, you end up with curriculum created by students for students.

This works the same for podcasts… detailed wikilike copy and paste directions… any number of things. The key is to have an infrastructure that allows you to do it fantastically quickly and be willing to throw it away when the technology changes…

build your own youtube, build it into an OS content management system, blah blah blah… all possible. Just a question of being able to build quickly and not be too attached to the stuff you make.

Now, there still needs to be solid overall curriclum. It also means that you can create very nice, fleshed out pieces using those disposable learning objects as models.

Author: dave

I run this site... among other things.

6 thoughts on “Disposable Learning Objects”

  1. A curriculum created by students for students so students will actually pay attention in all their sessions? I’m all for it! How do I sign up to beta test the system? 🙂 Great post. Thanks Dave.

  2. Robin –> be careful what you wish for…

    harold – so dave, why do you think we still need curriculum

    dave – thanks for the insightful question harold, we need the curriculum to bridge the transition between an uberformalized educational system based on tradition and a flexible one that responds to a transitioning world.


    always happy to have you in my bloggosphere mr. jarche.

  3. Inspiring, Dave. The time has definitely arrived to start asking students to help build their courses. Great idea. A quick question … are you talking about creating something new or just using what we already have — uploading to blogs, wikis, del.icio.us & adding a common tag to make things easy to find & collect?

  4. We’re going to be implementing it as part of our project… so we’ll probably be mostly serving out of something like drupal or moodle. Many reasons for this. One, I worry about the Odeo effect. (they had a couple million mp3 files and talked about ‘selling’ them) I like to control my own student’s content. so yes, wikis blogs… but using our own hopefully eventually distributed hosting system. if that makes sense.

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