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Queen of Learning Objects

Karl Kapp’s blog mentions of Wisconsin Online Resource Center’s (Wisc-Online) practically free game templates inspired me to check in with the learning object project leader, Kay Chitwood, Director of Learning Innovations, at Fox Valley Technical College. What impressed me about what Kay’s group is doing in Appleton, WI. is that they stuck with the Learning Object concept long after it stopped being popular. Learning Object (LO) design and the inevitable LO repository is still a viable strategy—best served when applied to a local eLearning eco-system.

Here are some highlights from my enlightening conversation with the Queen of Learning Objects, Kay Chitwood.

History lesson?

Kay gives credit to Elliot Masie for inspiring her to take up the LO flag in 1998. Their first learning objects were created in 2000 after receiving a FIPSE/LAAP grant from the US Department of Education. Today they offer use of over 2,300 learning objects in the repository for teachers or learners worldwide. Wisc-Online has been tracking hits since March 2007 when they had 1.6 million monthly hits with 59,798 unique visitors. Two years later, in February 2009, they had 6.2 million hits with 216,937 unique visitors.

How does Wisc-Online define a learning object?

Basically, they try to keep subject matter coverage limited to the topic level. A lesson would contain several topics or multiple LOs. If instructors request the need for more content, Kay often recommends they break the content down into more objects. Usually an object contains a knowledge check exercise.

Are the objects SCORM-compliant?

Even though SCORM evangelist Judy Brown lives in the same Fox River Valley WI. area, the need for Kay to start developing LOs surfaced prior to SCORM being fully baked. Since then, she has not seen an influx of need for the SCORM hooks to integrate into Learning Management Systems (LMSs).

Retiring this May!

Kay Chitwood is retiring next month, and she deserves hearty applause for practicing what many preached at the turn the century.

Concluding thoughts

My opinion is that all companies and educational institutions, especially at the department level, should adopt a Learning Object Policy. Any policy that promotes the re-use of eLearning assets is worth the time investment spent in collaborating on instructional design quality and technical standards. Learning object repositories lost their shine when it became obvious that no global repository would dominate and when clear business models failed to materialize.  However, at a school or a business department level, it’s a no-brainer.

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