Learning Objects Considered Harmful

I have a new column up on e-Learn called There’s No Such Thing as a Learning Object. This has been a long time coming; I was an early advocate for learning objects–and still am an advocate, in some ways. But I think that the term has gotten so badly abused that we need to do something about it.


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About Michael Feldstein

Michael Feldstein is co-Publisher of e-Literate, co-Producer of e-Literate TV, and Partner in MindWires Consulting. For more information, see his profile page.
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5 Responses to Learning Objects Considered Harmful

  1. Caitlyn says:

    I agree that the object is a tool for learning rather than what provides the learning itself. In regard to what you wrote about why we will never have a classroom taught solely by a podcast, etc., I think it also has a lot to do with the atmosphere provided by personal interaction.

    When considering this, however, what would you say accounts for the success of students in classes that are taught online? They are provided a learning object, such as podcasts or sites like blackboard and so on. In this case, when arguing online learning could never completely take over, would you say it’s just because that learning style isn’t for everyone?

  2. No, I wouldn’t. I spent a number of years designing fully self-paced e-Learning coursesin which I’d like to believe the students actually learned. And it’s certainly possible to have learning in online classes where there is a human facilitating interaction. It’s not about learning styles or social presence, although those both have impacts too. It’s about cognitive processing. Specifically, it’s about recognizing that cognitive processing exists, and that without it you don’t have learning. Telling is not the same thing as teaching.

  3. AnnaMarie says:

    I am currently taking on online course on computers in education.(how ironic). I agree with what you said in your article about the role of teachers in the learning process. I have never seen my instructor, except in his profile photo, but he has been there “facilitating interaction”. He reads and comments our online forums, and if I have a question that those forums cannot answer, I can send it to him for help. The class is enhanced by podcast tutorials ect. BUT you can’t ask a podcast to further explain a topic that you are having trouble with. I think that this is the major shortcomming in online learning. I like your explanation of what a learning object can can’t and should be. What is the role then of the object in most cases the computer or a specific program, when how to use that same object is objective. Let me clarify with an example; I want to learn how to tie a knot so you give me your shoe. Without instruction i will not get far, but if i want to learn to use Microsoft Word, you give me Microsoft word and i click on “help”. You could have forgotten me but i will learn from the program about the program. What term would use to distinguish these two objects in the learning spectrum?

  4. Gemma Gurr says:

    Learning objects. From somewhere deep in my Learning objects. From somewhere deep in my subconscious I once applied the term ‘Knowledge Object’ to teaching/learning resources arranged in a re-usable modular format. The Object was in reality a puzzle piece which could be ‘matched’ with other pieces as the need arose to compile a set of resources for a Learning exercise. The Object in and of itself was relatively useless unless combined with other Objects to form the Learning Resource. The compilation in itself was not enough.. the delivery and utilization of the compiled Learning Resource then required an understanding and application of a Learning Delivery method. Hmmm maybe the term Learning Object has been extended beyond its worth.

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