Learning objects: have you heard of them, or is this a new term to you? A learning object is one object or item in an online Learning Management System (LMS) that allows the student to obtain information or practice newly obtained information. While learning objects are simple enough to define, they are not as easy to develop.
When preparing to create online content for your students, begin with the AKS (standard) being taught and the learning target for the lesson. Learning targets help us to create a learning object that has one focus. One distinct purpose exists for the learning object. Students may be acquiring new information using a presentation, they may interact with embedded flash cards to preview vocabulary for an upcoming lesson, or they may complete an assessment to show mastery and understanding. Whatever the case may be, the learning object has one, singular focus.
Breaking the lesson down into focused sections helps the teacher organize pieces of the lesson while helping the students understand what they are doing in each learning object.
- Engage: This is the activating strategy. This could be a video that introduces the upcoming unit or lesson, a discussion board that students can use to express their background knowledge, or embedded virtual manipulatives paired with a guiding question.
- Learn: What interactive activity can students use to learn new information? This is a great place for a video, created or curated by the teacher, to teach a new concept. In math, a teacher may want to record a new strategy students can use to solve a linear equation. In social studies, a teacher could embed a video sharing information about the history of an ancient civilization. In science, students may use a 3D science tool to explore parts of the animal cell. In band, students may listen to a recording of the new piece of music they will begin soon.
- Practice: This type of learning object gives students the opportunity to practice their newly obtained understanding and refine it when given immediate feedback. Students may be presented with a math problem they are asked to solve and then are able to reveal its answer to see how they did. If they were incorrect in their answer, students would have access to an explanation of how the problem should have been solved so they can identify where they went wrong. In science, students may complete a matching activity between the parts of the cell and their functions. Practice objects should not be punitive, but rather give students a way to try applying their new knowledge, check their work, compare their notes to the teacher’s notes and then start the cycle over again.
- Show: This learning object invites students to show their mastery and understanding of the standard they’ve learned as they have completed learning activities inclass and online. Teachers can offer students the option of representing their learning using a web tool of their choice to promote deeper engagement or by offering a few options that appeal to a variety of learning styles. The intention of this type of learning object is for the students to show what they have learned so the teacher can evaluate the learning and provide additional feedback. Teachers can use rubrics to assess an object submitted to a dropbox or posted to a discussion board. Classroom Assessments or quizzes can measure student understanding.
- Extend: As students submit assignments to show what they know, teachers will be able to identify common misconceptions among students and/or develop remedial lessons for students who need additional support. During this time, teachers can offer students an opportunity to extend or deepen their understanding through an Extend activity. An Extend activity could include a current event article related to the AKS (standard) being taught that students interact with, or it could include suggestions for going deeper into the content. An Extend activity could be a preview into the next unit or a preview of how the information learned will “reappear” at future grade levels or in the real-world. Extend activities provide a great opportunity for differentiation.
When creating learning objects, there are a few things to keep in mind. Learning objects should be:
- Directly connected to a specific AKS (Standard). All learning objects should help the student master the content.
- Singular in focus. Learning objects should be focused on one learning objective at a time.
- Singular in purpose. Each learning object should have a clear purpose evident to the student.
- Student facing. Ideally, the student should be able to utilize the learning object without the teacher present to give verbal directions. Where directions are needed, they should be written to the student. When applicable, directions should be read aloud.
- Level appropriate. Differentiation based on skill and ability level should be used when developing learning objects. Learning objects should also be grade level and standard appropriate.
Let’s start building! Here’s a planning guide to help you:
Four steps to keep in mind:
- Prepare: Identify your learning targets and create an outline. Perhaps start with how you’d teach this lesson in the brick-and-mortar classroom, then brainstorm ways students can obtain or interact with this information online. “If your course doesn’t engage your learners, or overloads them with information, those all-important learning goals are not going to be achieved. Structure your content by dividing it into modules and learning paths so that there’s an achievable path for your learner to follow” (McEnteggart, 2017).
- Create: This could also be subtitled: Build. This is where you curate interactive materials and create engaging activities while considering a variety of learning styles. Also consider how students will show understanding. Will they interact on a discussion board or submit to a dropbox? Will they practice using interactive tools like Quizlet, NearPod or Quizizz? Structure your assignment into modules and sub-modules to keep it organized and easy to follow, use learning paths to help drive students.
- Deliver: Switch into Student view and see it from their perspective. Did you create release conditions in your Learning Management System to drive their learning? Do they work? Is the content being delivered easy to follow and engaging? If it’s text heavy, are their options for read aloud?
- Measure: Ask your students about the activities. What did they like or not like about the activities? WARNING: Middle Schoolers will say they don’t like anything so be specific. Ask students how long they think they spent on the tasks and then use User Progress to calculate the average time spent on each activity and the module as a whole. Measure student learning. Based on their responses to discussion boards and/or test items, how did they do? What would you as teacher do differently next time?
Chiappe Laverde, A., Segovia Cifuentes, Y., & Rincón Rodríguez, H. (2007). Toward an instructional design model based on learning objects. Educational Technology Research & Development, 55(6), 671-681. http://proxygsu-sgwi.galileo.usg.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=27017916&site=ehost-live
Keramida, M., (M.Ed.). (2015, July 08). The Importance Of Learning Objects In Instructional Design For eLearning. Retrieved from: https://elearningindustry.com/the-importance-of-learning-objects-in-instructional-design-for-elearning
McEnteggart, P. (2017, January 06). 4 Steps To Prepare Engaging eLearning Content. Retrieved from: https://elearningindustry.com/4-steps-prepare-engaging-elearning-content