David Wiley provides a useful definition in the seminal work "The Instructional Use of Learning Objects".
Simply put, learning objects are:
- support learning
The fact that most objects are designed to be reusable means that you don't always need to start from scratch to find a "best practices" model for concepts in your course.
Examples of learning objects:
Finding Learning Objects
Interactive learning objects can be found by searching domain-specific and, especially, peer-reviewed resource banks and repositories. An excellent model for this concept is the Ontario Educational Resource Bank, which has thousands of learning objects for Kindergarten through Grade 12.
In higher education, the following repository sites may be helpful:
- MERLOT, the Multimedia Education Resource for Learning and Online Teaching
- T-Space, the University of Toronto Research Repository
- MIT Open Courseware at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Open Educational Resources - explicitly copyright cleared
Paulina Rousseau of the UTSC Library has produced a Research Guide on Digital Pedagogy with links to major collections of learning object repositories and referatories available on the web.
Increasingly, textbook publishers are providing digital content which can be reused in courses at different universities, under license.
Creating Learning Objects
A number of multimedia learning objects and systems have been authored at U of T Scarborough. Some Faculty have won a Teaching Enhancement Grant funding for new objects. Production on these is under way. Visit the IITS Site for profiles of past projects...something similar may serve your course needs.
You may also choose to take advantage of an increasing number of self-serve online authoring tools, such as the Canvas Quiz system.
Publishing your scholarly research in an open repository such as T-Space is a good way to make your academic work accessible to others as learning objects. Research suggests that articles available online at a persistent URL are three times more likely to be cited in other works. A great example of a well-organized open access research collection is that of U of T Scarborough Faculty Rudy Boonstra.
Learning objects and ePortfolios support a student-centric, constructivist approach to higher education. Consider how structured experiences in these enhanced environments can help students build understanding within your academic discipline.
Need help finding learning objects to complement your course?