Learning Object Repositories

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This page was originally authored by Louise Massey (2008).


Learning Object Repositories are the digital extension of teachers sharing resources and materials.

Definition

Learning object repositories (LOR's) are essentially digital warehouses or libraries for learning materials, or learning objects that can be used by any of the members of the repository network (Edutechwiki, 2008, Switch, 2008, and Wiley, D., N.D. ).

Licensing Concerns

The use of the materials found in a learning object repository is usually subject to license agreements. A common agreement found in education is the Creative Commons License. It is important to read the license agreement, and ensure that you fully understand the implications of the agreement and any copyright details.

While the concept of sharing resources is not new, teachers have acquired materials from their peers for decades, the digital nature of learning objects creates new problems in relation to copyright, ownership and other issues surrounding rights.

Click here to view an entertaining video on Copyright and Fair Use

It is very important that educators carefully read all licensing terms and agreements to ensure that they will be abiding by these terms.

Local Perspective

Learning Object Repositories are becoming more common, which we can see evidence of here in British Columbia. There are repositories created to serve both the K-12 and the Higher Education markets.

Local Higher-Ed Repository

BCcampus maintains a repository called SOL*R. This repository was initiated in 2005, and continues to grow with content created by higher education institutions in British Columbia.

Curiously, some Faculties at local institutions are creating and publishing learning objects outside of major repositories. An example of this can be seen in UBC's Faculty of arts Arts ISIT Learning Tools Website. This is an interesting move because it creates learning objects that are freely available for public access. This is also seen at non-local institutions such as MIT.

Local K-12 Repository

There is also a K-12 repository in British Columbia which is supported by the Educator's Resource Centre (ERC).

Currently, the majority of resources provided in the ERC repository have been contributed by Open School BC (OSBC), which has a long history of supporting K-12 distance education and e-Learning resources in the province (Open School BC, 2004).

How to Use a Learning Object Repository

Finding Resources

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Most repositories require the user to log in for access to the resources that are stored there. When looking for resources, each repository will have a slightly different method of searching for resources, however the concepts are similar. Once a user has logged in to the system, he or she can search by subject, keyword, or other specified parameters.
Browse by subject.JPG




The simplest search is achieved by browsing by one of these search parameters. If the resource is already known, then a keyword search may work well.

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Most repositories will have some form of licensing or copyright agreement. It is the responsibility of the object user to ensure that the use of the object conforms with licensing specifications.

User Defined Cataloguing

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An important element to any digital library or repository is the method of cataloguing the resources for users to find. This is achieved through multiple methods including selecting options from pre-existing criteria, as well as entering keywords and phrases. Keywords are user-defined, and are sometimes referred to as tags. In some systems, only the original author, or the person who uploads a file can tag a file, while in others, it is possible for these tags to be adjusted by the other users. When multiple users are able to edit the tags for resources, the cataloguing system becomes moulded to the users in such a way that the ease of finding a resource is increased.

User defined tags help to identify images of people in Facebook, and to find related websites in social bookmarking environments such as Del.icio.us and Digg. As these methods become adapted to more formal uses such as LOR's we will see a great improvement in the ease of resource finding.


Opening the Digital Doors

Enabling Educators

Learning Object Repositories are a step in the right direction in that digital content requires expertise to generate that not all educators possess. These projects open the digital doors to educators to use well developed and professionally produced digital media and materials. As these repositories build and grow, more resources will become available, however, the doors are only open to those educators who are members of those repositories.

A Global Merger

In order to maximize the effectiveness of the use of learning objects, it would be beneficial for repositories to merge and develop the means to open their doors to all educators who are interested in using learning objects. This is beginning to occur as institutions are now working together to produce and share resources, however, as can be seen by the volume of additional resources on this page, there are still a great many different repositories.

Educating the Educator

A final concern in opening the digital doors is providing educators with the tools and knowledge necessary to take advantage of the digital content that exists. The only way that learning object initiatives will be successful is if educators make full use of the objects that are created, and this will only occur if the educators are supported and properly informed about the use of repositories.

References

Edutechwiki, (2008). Retrieved February 26, 2008 from [1]

Open School BC, (2004). Retrieved March 2, 2008 from [2]

Switch, (2008). Retrieved February 28, 2008 from [3]

Wiley, D., (N.D.) cited in Pink Flamingos Resource Lists (2007). Retrieved February 28 from [4]

Additional Repositories and Resources

Looking to the Future

Learning Object Repositories allow educators to share digital materials and resources in much the same manner as educators have previously shared tangible learning resources such as printed material. These repository initiatives take great strides into the future of education, however, I believe that there are concerns that should be addressed in standards reviews and policy-making.

The following concerns arose for me when researching LOR's:

  • The potential need for planning for the demise/updating of outdated materials.
  • The need to increase the server memory of the repository as the volume of resources grows.
  • The need to create very high quality production of resources. This has been identified as a significant issue by the New Media Consortium who retired their repository after discovering that it is a significant challenge to have very high quality resources added and created.
  • The need to make resources open and accessible to all educators, not only members of specialized groups.
  • If resources are high quality and professionally produced, and LOR's are freely available to all educators, then who will fund the projects?
  • The need to provide for remixing of resources. In today's world, static resources will become less appealing to people who are used to mixing and remixing (or 'mashing up') everything digital around them. Since many licenses have significant limitations on the use of resources, it may be unclear to the educator what level of remixing would be appropriate. See diagram below for a view of the flexibility needed in Learning Objects for the future.
Image created using Inspiration 8 IE

Learning Object Repositories