So, anyone reading my blog lately will have noticed that I’m focusing a lot on online learning and the use of information and communication technology (ICT) to improve my teaching practice. And here’s yet another post on this subject.
Today’s reflection is on the topic of using so-called “learning objects” in my courses. The first thing to ponder is of course “what is a learning object”? As usual, there seem to be a number of definitions out there; but I quite like this page by Robert J. Beck which provides an overview of the topic. During the course I’m taking right not (IT i undervisningen – a course for teachers at Karolinska Institutet) we talked about learning objects as anything from the powerpoint presentations I upload for the students to access after class to recordings of lectures and presentations, quizzes and any other online resource that could be reused in a Teaching/Learning Activity (TLA). So, how could I use such learning objects in my courses? Well, one thing I’ve been considering for quite a while is reducing the amount of lecturing I do by providing the students with the same information online. There are two reasons for this:
- The amount of time available for me to teach is very limited, and I want to use the time I have with the students as best I can. Lecturing to them doesn’t appear to be the most efficient way. I already provide materials for them to read beforehand, but to summarize and give them focus a presentation seems much more efficient. Then we could quickly review the content when we meet and spend the rest of the time doing practical things in more of a workshop TLA.
- The students I teach have very varying backgrounds – some are very familiar with some of the topics we address in the course, whereas others are novices. By providing online access to learning objects the students who are already familiar with those topics can skip them and focus on other parts of the course.
My main concerns right now, coming from a usability background, is ensuring that the learning objects I reuse are well-suited to the purpose. ISO defines usability as “The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.” Translating this to my teaching practice I need to ask myself;
- Who are the students who will use the learning objects (specified users)? What are their previous knowledge and interest in using such tools?
- What are the students supposed to learn (specified goals)? How does this map towards the learning outcomes of the course?
- And in what course will the learning object be used (specified context-of-use)? What other learning objects and activities are there? Will this learning object overlap with other parts? Do I risk overloading the students with information?
Probably there are many more questions to ask. Yet, I will do my best to overcome this irrational feeling of cheating or stealing and instead embrace this wonderful world of shared, and reusable learning objects. After all, my PhD thesis was called “Sharing is Caring”. The next step would of course be to start producing my own learning objects and perhaps sharing those with the world. This is somewhat more intimidating (and appears very time consuming!). Today, I have used ScreenCast-o-Matic for the first time to record a presentation, and it was fun! Already have plenty of ideas for how this could be useful in both education and research activities. So, perhaps you will get to see and hear (rather than just read) more of me online in the future…
It seems like you have a good plan. The thought of providing students with different recorded talks or other learning objects beforehand, and then use the time you meet the students to discuss and perhaps reflect instead of mainly lecturing, sounds like something that would benefit both the students and you as a teacher.
And to use other peoples material – I suppose a lot of it is out there to be used. And if you start producing your own material you can think of it as your contribution, paying back for some of the material you have used!
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