Learning Objects

As learning research has developed, researchers have moved away from thinking about a lesson as a monolithic whole. Instead, they have come to favor a model in which units of instruction or “learning objects” are planned and arranged to support a learning objective. For example, the following learning objects might be part of a standard lesson in a college course:

  • textbook chapter
  • lecture
  • worksheet
  • video segment
  • group work activity
  • quiz

When it comes to moving courses online, the learning object model is beneficial for a few reasons. Faculty are asked to use flipped classroom techniques, but using these techniques often involve an initial outlay of time in order to get the instructional content online for students to consume at home. The learning object model lends itself to this type of course development because learning objects can be selected from a number of sources: under this model, the faculty member may make some objects on his or her own and source others from content collections on the Internet.

To make the lesson coherent for the students, the objects need to be aggregated to a common space. Northeastern uses the Blackboard course shell as this common space which can aggregate content such as:

  • lectures recorded with Tegrity
  • learning objects created with SoftChalk, Presenter, Storyline, or Captivate
  • documents written in Word
  • videos hosted on YouTube or uploaded to Blackboard itself
  • links to other websites
  • quizzes conducted via clickers

That’s just a small sample of learning objects that can be organized into Blackboard.

Deciding whether to create or link

When strategizing about how to organize your lessons, you’ll want to spend some time thinking about which learning objects you can easily link to on the web or buy from a publisher and which learning objects you’ll need to create yourself. There are generally many options for sourcing free learning objects that address factual information at a basic level. But if you have your own take on information or if you are looking for content to be covered at a more advanced level, you may need to create your own.

The only bad news is that creating learning objects can take time. The good news is that under the learning object model of course development, you’ll be able to use this content over and over. And if you keep your files well organized, when you need to update it to keep it current, updates will require only a fraction of the time. And the learning objects that you make will be tailored to your specific course.

The other good news is that ATS recently bought several pieces of software designed for rapid course development:

The linked pages above will provide more information about what each program is best at, where you can find the software, and how you can get help using it.

Working in the Digital Scholarship Commons

ATS recently moved to the Digital Scholarship Common on the second floor of the library, and staff are available Monday through Friday 8:00 – 5:30 (and by appointment) to help you create learning objects.

The Digital Scholarship Commons offers work space and computers (both Macintosh and Windows) with all of the learning object creation software. Work space is available on a drop-in basis, or you may book it if you would like to plan in advance. Regardless, you can work independently, collaborate with colleagues, or get one-on-one consultation with ATS staff.

Learning Object Creation Workrooms

ATS has two Learning Object Creation Workrooms optimized for creating flipped classroom materials. Each of these private, quiet recording spaces is equipped with audio and video ready Mac and PC desktops, standard NUNET software, and the following learning object creation applications:

SoftChalk
Adobe Captivate
Adobe Presenter (PC Only)
Articulate Storyline (PC Only)

The Learning Object Creation Workrooms are on the 2nd floor of the Snell Library and may be reserved by contacting ATS or NUSSO room reservations.

New to learning objects?   Download our QuickStart guides and begin your first project!