Learning object description

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Learning Object Repository Software

Research Project Final Report – November 12, 2004
Written by Scott Leslie, Bruce Landon, Brian Lamb, and Russell Poulin of
WCET’s EduTools


In the Fall of 2003, WCET members suggested that the EduTools team should conduct reviews of Learning Object Repository (LOR) software products, similar to its reviews of Course Management Systems(www.edutools.info/course/). Since the LOR software market is fairly immature, those shopping for products would benefit greatly from the reviews.

In response, WCET’s EduTools put out a call for partners to participate in a research project that would:
• Create definitions of review criteria for learning object repository software products.
• Using these criteria, conduct reviews of sixproducts jointly selected by the partners.
• Engage three “guest experts” to address pressing issues in successfully implementing a learning object repository.
• Share advances among the partners that they have each made in using learning objects and in considering software options.
In consideration of the partners’ financial support of the project, the product reviews were madeavailable to project members in May 2004, but were not made public until the release of this document at the WCET Annual Conference in November 2004. The four project partners are: University System of Georgia, Utah Education Network, Virginia Community College System, and Virginia Tech.

What is EduTools?

Edutools has its beginning in 1996 as landonline (http://www.c2t2.ca/landonline/ - URL nolonger active) and was built to facilitate the selection of Course Management Systems by colleges and universities in British Columbia. The site became popular for comparing products in the early years from 1997-2000 and in 2001 the site was redeveloped as EduTools as part of a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to WCET (http://www.edutools.info/course). The site is designed tohelp decision makers select a Course Management System by reducing the memory load of the task of comparing many products on many features. The site organizes product features and breaks down information into mind sized chunks to allow meaningful side-by-side product comparisons. The site also provides a decision engine to facilitate rational decision-making with a graphic calculator and deeplinking site navigation so that any page from the database driven site can be easily shared. This decision support and the comprehensive product coverage of the site have enabled EduTools to become an internet reference point with over 1,100 referencing pages over 20,000 visitors who go to the site more than once a month.

Seeking assistance on Learning Object Repository software

In February2004, based upon the requests of a number of member institutions, WCET convened a new project to compare existing ‘learning object repository’ software in a manner akin to that already used in the well established Edutools CMS site. A call for participants went out and four state systems/major institutions agreed to become partners: the Utah Education Network, the University System of Georgia, theVirginia Community College System, and Virginia Tech. By participating in the joint software evaluation project, a set of criteria was developed, in consultation with the partners, for use in evaluating the software. The intent was for this set of criteria to be more extensive and insightful than any that could be developed by any one institution in isolation. Another goal of the project was aneducational one, to expose the project partners to each other’s approaches to learning object repositories, and also to a selection of guest experts on the topic.

Defining the problem

As institutions start to make their way down the road of reusable and shareable learning objects they are also facing choices on how to store, locate, and share this content and are struggling with the new...
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