Putting the learning back into learning objects

I read Norm Friesen's 'Three objections to learning objects' but something in the arguments raised didn't match with how I view reusable learning objects. So in the spirit of Norm's article, here's another perspective on the debate about the positive and negative aspects of the vision of sharing educational resources.

1. The old 'what is a learning object' debate. In the context of e-learning, “any digital, reproducible and addressable resource used to perform learning activities or learning support activities, made available for others to use” works for me (thanks to Rob Koper, 'Combining reusable learning resources and services with pedagogical purposeful units of learning' in this book).

2. When I read the IMS learning Design specification is see “The IMS Learning Design specification supports the use of a wide range of pedagogies in online learning.”. I don't see pedagogic neutrality, in fact I see a tool that builds upon the excellent groundwork laid down by those fine fellows at the Open University of the Netherlands on the Educational Modelling Language (EML) and delivers a specification that can put the learning back into learning objects.

Here's a key paragraph from the IMS Learning Design Best Practice and Implementation Guide: “While the Learning Design approach allows different kinds of learning strategies to be supported, there is currently no vocabulary provided for describing different kinds of learning approaches, in part because the runtime system does not need to have such a vocabulary in order to correctly interpret learning designs – it just has to be able to interpret the meta-language. This provides a means of expressing many different pedagogical approaches in a relatively succinct language as set out in this document. This language in itself must be pedagogically neutral. In consequence, a system that has to interpret this language does not need to know the pedagogical approach underlying the design: it only needs to be able to instantiate the design, allocate activities and their associated resources to participants playing the various roles, and coordinate the runtime flow.”

3. If you have a strong pedagogic model and are serious about learning design then forget SCORM. How can anyone be serious about SCORM when it only models the single learner, single interaction, and is fundamentally unable to model the kinds of interactions between groups of learners and learning objects that makes e-learning (and learning objects) work. IMS Learning Design is new, and as such will be refined, but right now it could be the most significant e-learning specification yet developed.