17 March, 2009

Thoughts around re-usable stuff

I come to the debate on Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs) a little uninformed, but I thought of something earlier which I thought was an interesting observation.

If you know what RLOs are - then skip to the next para. For those uninformed or wanting to be re-informed, Nottingham's working definition is: "an interactive WWW-based resource based on a single learning objective which can be used in multiple contexts".

Whilst looking at a colleagues excellent work (well done Ken), I couldn't help but think what a pity the HE community in the UK can't work together better to work as a team to produce content - thus Ken's excellent work might be used by Liverpool, UCL or Brighton, and Edge Hill might use objects from other leading institutions throughout the UK, perhaps even worldwide.

Besides the usual RLO issues (fit for purpose, context specific content, multiple outcomes misaligned with the re-purpose and the largest issue: copyright and IPR), a major barrier to working like this is fear of sharing good work with our competition - why would we want to give our excellent materials away to Hull, Leiden or MIT, when these are the very things which drag student here. Well, two observations about that:
1) I think we are being a tad arrogant to think of our stuff as "World Class";
2) I don't think the quality of this type of work does bring students here.

However, if we did "Share" our stuff, then these two issues are addressed, because:
1) we would be encouraged to raise our standards to be seen on a world stage;
2) Our resulting excellent materials would be seen by far more students and therefore we would be more likely to attract students here as more will ahve seen our excellent work.

Finally, the interesting twist which niggled me to write this: around here academics DO produce world class materials and DO make them freely available to the world - and are rewarded by this institution for doing so, and in turn this institution is rewarded too - so what are these materials called? Books and Journals. Why can't we do the same for "Content"?

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