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Learning Solutions - Learning Objects: Behind the Buzz
At conferences and in planning meetings, people concerned with education, training and performance improvement are talking about learning objects. What are they? What do learning objects promise your organization? And are they delivering on their promises
Learning objects are digital libraries of useful materials cataloged for efficient access. Learning objects promise answers to pressing problems such as maintaining content currency, distributing standards and updates and replacing "one size fits all" training with tailored content and experiences. Objects come in many forms, from finished learning modules to the raw materials used to build them, such as text, photographs, job aids, tests and video presentations, digitized and ready to be combined in new forms.
Cisco's Chuck Barritt said that learning objects "result in shortened development time when updating existing objects or modifying them for a new audience" and "give the ability to deliver dynamic, prescriptive learning." Joe Jurzyeck of LOBJ.org sees the primary benefit coming from different instructors using the same materials in several contexts.
Cisco sells courses based on learning objects. Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Microsoft use objects to create and deliver documentation. The U.S. Department of Defense promotes SCORM, the Sharable Content Object Reference Model. SCORM is well on its way to acceptance as the framework for objects and training programs across NATO and as a common set of specifications for content producers across platforms and geographies. Many executives see the possibilities associated with learning objects, especially those that reduce costs and spread standard messages. A recent study by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence found that 23 percent of responding organizations are engaged in learning objects initiatives, with 18 percent more inclining their organizations in that direction.
The 3 "R's"
The "three R's" of learning objects are Reduce, Re-purpose and Recycle.
- Learning objects reduce content into manageable bites. These bites are then tagged, cataloged and stored for later and varied uses by others. A traditional course on negotiating might include modules on why people negotiate, how to negotiate, how to recognize opportunities for negotiation, tips for negotiators and role-playing activities. From a learning-objects perspective, trainers create and maintain a collection of useful and small assets about negotiation. They can be found and moved in ways that transcend the flexibility of conventional learning assets.
- The people who create learning objects often re-purpose existing assets to be useful with a wider audience. A professional might go to the "negotiation skills" library, for example, and take a 20-minute videotape of a negotiation interaction in order to carve it into examples or even an assessment opportunity.
- Learning objects become successful when recycled as new forms, uses and contexts. For example, the same video clip extracted from the library can be used in a classroom presentation and in an executive briefing.
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