An Experiment on the Reuse of Learning Objects

I've been ranting for ages about the horrors of Learning Objects to anyone who would stand still long enough and listen to me. I had written a paper with a friend about the eLearning module that I produced and which we both have used, and we did not use the term because we both think this is hogwash and concentrated on collaboration.

The referees complained: we had not referenced state-of-the-art literature and we should have made proper learning objects. I went off like a rocket and started madly collecting published stuff on the dangers of learning objects. There is not much, but some at least. When I calmed down I managed to put together a pretty nice explaination, I thought, of why I find it rubbish, in a rather scientific manner.

The referee found it better that I said something, but continued on that Meta Data were the basis for reuse, etc. I immediately conducted a reuse experiment with the repository in question (which shall be nameless, this is not the point of my argument to discredit their particular repository, but to question the entire religion of learning objects).

The reviewer writes: "Metadata, if filled in properly, can be very beneficial for finding suitable material."

I responded: "I would love to see a paper on this - I have asked at every presentation I have ever attended that was given on the topic of learning objects if they are aware of any research into the actual reusability of metadata decorated objects. I always get a no for an answer. Any system presentation that I have visited and wanted to actually look for something using meta data has not actually had the searching implemented "yet". I strongly beleive that meta data is great - if done right, the way that libraries have been doing meta data for over 400 years now. That might be another paper to write....

I will be at the Metadata session in Rostock (GMW) with the expressed purpose of shaking a real example of reuse out of someone - or I will really have to write something about it! "

I had criticized the repository as only containing 23 objects, anyway.

The reviewer commented: "The numbers given for the XXX project are not correct. The repository actually contains a much larger number of learning objects than only 23. "

Okay, time to fight back. I now added up the numbers in parenthesis behind the 23 objects, assuming that this is the number of subobjects. I now get 57, which is still not a lot to crow about. I have changed the wording to be "less than 100".

Since I am teaching SE this semester, I decided that I would test the search capabilities on the meta data for the objects in the repository. Let's see, I need something nice about life-cycles for the first lecture. The search form offers me all sorts of fields (in German) that make no real sense to me. I don't know what they mean or how they were filled out. The first search should be over all fields, not just inside one particular field, this is something we learned in library OPACs long ago (I spent 4 years of my life developing software for libraries).

Bezeichner: Life cycle? 0 hits. Maybe German? Lebenszyklus? 0
Titel: ditto
Beschreibung: ditto
Klassifizierung: hmm, no life cycle. There's an entry on "Software Engineering General" that at least brings up a few entries, so the search really does find something occasionally. The names are not really promising, but "Introduction to SE" looks good - oh, just some Powerpoint slides. Somehow, I have never seen a Powerpoint slide as a learning object, but more of a reminder slip as to what was said in the lecture (or written in the book).

The download is a Zip file with a Powerpoints in a file name containing Umlauts that have now been mangled, an XML Manifest and a license. The manifest tells me a lot I don't want to know, and that this is an introduction. But it does not tell me if the introduction contains a life cycle model....

Hmm, the XML lists Mr. E as the author. But the slides say: Dr. W. / University of B. The properties in Powerpoint have a nickname / University of P. Oh oh, the slides contain a Dilbert cartoon that expressly states: "Redistribution in whole or part prohibited". If you purchase a Dilbert it will state so. So now, not only have I not found anything, I have just uncovered a copyright problem that needs fixing. But who do I inform? Oh, and no slides on life cycles in here.

Going through the learning objects (there aren't really that many) I find "LE 3.1 Prozessqualität" which actually has the V-model. That's something I might find useful. This was only findable because there
are not many learning objects in the repository.

See what I mean? Despite all of the meta data that has been assessed, I still can't find stuff that is actually there, because the classification by metadata does not use a thesaurus and a category hierarchy.


No comments: