Re-use revisited

A couple of years ago I created some html/Javascript templates for our internal elearning, to be used where tutorial style was appropriate.  On principle, influenced by what I was reading at the time and the impending advent of the about-to-be-becoming LMS, we made them standalone, with no links to each other or their parent menu systems, in other words they were designed as reusable learning objects, which could be rebranded for other purposes by changing a style sheet and collecting them in a different menu page. A couple of years down the line and about 50 or more short tutorials later, one of our team has challenged this, his customer insisting on a hard link from one ‘object’ to the next ‘object’ in the sequence.  He asked me (in what I knew was a loaded question) ‘How many times have we ever reused any of these objects as they stand?’  ‘How many customers have accepted an earlier-produced tutorial to form part of their new learning package?’ The answers, as you can guess, were ‘none’ and ‘none’.  The most we’ve reused anything is where they’ve said ‘I’d like it a bit like that but with these changes …’. 

Is this a common experience for others?  Is reusable learning objects another fad of yesteryear or are some of you actually working that way?  Would you say we’d see no benefit at 50 objects but at 500 we will?  When someone tried to get a conversation about SCORM going with me recently, I admit my heart sank and when he started on reusable taggable learning objects I just thought ‘No, please, no!’

I’m on holiday now, I’ll look forward to the comments when I get back.

1 thought on “Re-use revisited”

  1. An interesting article, especially as I work for a HEI in the UK who currently have a funded project from the JISC to redevelop a taught module to comprise of at least 50% of externally sourced reusable learning objects.
    The project is about half way through its 12 month period, and there are some very definite +ives and -ives to take away.
    Firstly there are mumblings about JISC’s intentions for the project i.e. a means to populate their earlier project – the Jorum repository.
    Secondly – scalability; how is an institution supposed to store RLOs, and allow institutional searching to really benefit from reuse/repurposing? Repositories may be a good idea but how much time and money would it cost?
    Thirdly; searching for external content and pursuing copyright clearance is a massive headache. Which leads onto the 4th point; -why bother with the effort? Because it really is a big effort.
    Now, on the plus side, institutions typically deliver numerous taught modules around research – most subjects have such a module. If we had RLOs that could be used across these subjects, it would really ease the pain of development (especially for completely online courses).
    Perhaps the JISCs intentions are for the good of HE – if we can develop an online course more easily by sharing content (generic or specific) then the idea sounds good. But when HEI is more competitive than ever, why would academics want to give their hard work away? Would it not also impact upon the perceived quality of a course? Why study at place X, when most of the content is the same as place Y.
    I think if the JISCs intentions are to become reality, a culture shift in the mindset of many academics in UK HE is a pre-requisite.
    In the UK we are normally a mile behind the US, so perhaps in the coming years we will see a boom for open courseware – there are some instutions going that way currently.
    Anyway, interesting debate, and I hope fellow readers respond to my points as well.

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