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7 October 2004 / erikduval

REBIUN workshop

Have the privilege and pleasure to present at the 4th REBIUN workshop in Barcelona, Spain.

First interesting observation: this is a yearly meeting by the Spanish network of academic libraries. Last year, the theme was open access; this year, learning objects and repositories were the focus. Seems like the Spanish librarian community has a pretty clear idea of where the more exciting work is happening. Great to see this community reflect on what it means for what they do!

Tony Bates presented some observations on the organisational context. He also listed some “problems with learning objects”, which I list below with my reply in my presentation.

  • Tony’s problem: Driven by technology, not library, education?

    My answer: True, driven by technology. The library folks are getting more involved, now that different metadata communities (DC, LOM, MPEG, …) are discussing interoperability and consolidation though. The main problem is involvement of pedagogical expertise, where we are struggling to start a meaningful conversation, as few with a pedagogical background seem to want to be involved at the more operational level…

  • Tony’s problem: Semantic classification is difficult.

    My answer: Yes, but context can be mined, which enables us to do pretty good “guesses” on the semantics. Actually, our research suggests that the automated approach is as good as manual indexing. Moreover, social recommending techniques will make the need for detailed semantic classification less important: maybe we will not know what the learning object is really about, but we will know whether it is relevant for you, and that is what counts!

  • Tony’s problem: High cost of production/classification

    My answer: True that learning objects require expertise, time, effort, money. That was one of the original drivers behind ARIADNE: to enable share and reuse of the learning objects that we do produce, so that we can all focus on doing less (but better), reuse from others and learn from others!

  • Tony’s problem: Business models

    My answer: People seem to assume that learning objects are only about open source approaches, but that is not the case! Sure, open source can actually be a sustainable model: Ariadne operates on a model close to open source and has been self sustainable since 2000! However, I am not sure that CISCO or NetG would want to rely on such an approach. They can go for a more conventional commercial model…

  • Tony’s problem: learning objects are supposed to be context free, but that is a contradiction?

    My answer: the Learnativity taxonomy illustrates how we can deal with very small, context free, resources, as well as very large objects with a lot of context embedded in them! (I actually inserted the slide with the taxonomy in my presentation when Tony made this comment. It’s always nice to be able to refer to the previous presentation when you do your own…)

  • Tony’s problem: Knowledge is not the same as assembling parts?

    My answer: Yes, yes, yes, yes!! I agree, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make at least the parts more readily available? Moreover, IMS learning design and other approaches try to address this problem – though I personally have serious reservations about this approaches, at least they show that we are aware of the problem!

  • Tony’s problem: The role of the teacher should be built into the model.

    My answer: Not sure if that is true: the learning objects should enable different models, this is not about “the model”. In any case, the role of the teacher will be changing, that is sure…

  • Tony’s problem: Need to experiment & evaluate

    My answer: Yes, yes, yes, yes!! Couldn’t agree more: the low number of empirical studies (and the poor quality of them) is really hurting our field! Of course, evaluating the learning effect is pretty difficult…

Was also quite interesting to hear about the “factories” that the UPC university has set up to assist with learning object authoring. Basically, a professor can explain what kind of learning object he would like, and this factory will take care of authoring, provided that he agrees to put the result in an open repository! Wish I had such a factory at my disposal!

Also noteable is a national server of PhD. theses, part of the OAI world.

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