To me, the thing that makes learning objects new (or makes them useful) are:
- Modularity. The smaller the scope of the object, the more finely-tuned it is, then the more likely it is that someone can use it in their lessons. This makes this different than, say, a textbook chapter. I mean, we’ve all had assignments to read “Sections 1-4 of chapter 7” or, to be more lighted-hearted, have all of two weeks to read the high-school American-history chapters on “everything in the 20th century” because we spent a week on Jamestown. Learning objects are designed to be accessible in bits and clumps and to be readily reviewed later in only the amounts needed.
- Accessibility. The metadata and technologies of learning objects seem best designed for permanent accessibility on the web. If the object requires plugin downloads, that limits it. If it’s not easy to see at a glance without opening the object how it will fit into a curriculum, that limits it. If the metadata doesn’t fit with the developing standards out there for eventual depot collection, then that limits it.
It brings to mind two things. One, the transition to linked data; in that we are looking for an authoritative, permanent accessible link to items on a concept or subject. The second, Khan Academy, with its mini lessons, assessments, and community objects.
Another random thought: Web archives and searching are to librarians what learning objects are to teachers. While a permanently accessible curriculum with no special “teacher’s edition” seems like an attempt to remove teachers from learning, it looks more like it’s removing the repetitive aspects of curriculum development and turning teachers into experts on tailoring curricula to their students.