Article:  Reusable Learning Objects (RLO’s) – the future of eLearning

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The concept of “Reusable Learning Objects” (RLO’s) essentially means that each component that is used to design a page of custom courseware in and of itself is an object.  Essentially, each element on any page can be referred to as a page level asset, which is the same as a RLO.


By using an authoring tool that takes advantage of page level assets, it is much easier to reuse elements of content, or just update a course by swapping out a particular learning object.  This concept of RLO’s comes from the fact that each page level asset is stored in a content repository and used as an object when a particular page on a course is referenced.


This concept of RLO’s creates flexibility for courseware designers.  It also can significantly reduce required resources, which in turn can make it quicker and less expensive to develop custom courseware.  Using a common Learning Management System for course management, a course can be designed to know who is accessing the course and how it is being accessed.  Combining this with an RLO courseware design approach can create “smart” courses that are dynamically configurable.


For example, with some “Learning Content Management Systems” (LCMS systems), a course can be designed for mobile devices.  When the user accesses a course from a mobile device, the system will detect the browser type and know that the course needs to be sent to a mobile device.  Each page level asset or RLO can be tagged to display only when a mobile device is used.  In this manner, the course can automatically configure and present itself to the user in the format that is desired.



Modular Content means Flexibility:

Using an object framework also provides the ability to modularize content and easily add new elements or remove elements as beneficial to the learning environment.  In this manner, courseware materials can easily accommodate various learning tracks without having to redesign the entire course.


Each learning object can store any kind of media, and it is recommended to use a variety of media types.  Well designed course offerings will use a blend of media, which will appeal to a variety of learning styles.  Courses are then deployed using this RLO approach to manage content.


This development modality also provides the flexibility to easily modify content so that it is uniquely relevant for cross-cultural learning environments.  This enables content to be individualized on an International basis.  This means that we can deliver course content to students in different ways, based upon what we know about them.  For example, we can use a culturally relevant example for a student in the US, a different one for a student in India, and still a different one for a student in Korea without having to support multiple versions of the same course.


We can also present content based upon how a student is performing, and in so doing create an individualized approach to learning that would otherwise not be available.  Technology is used to effectively personalize content delivery with a personal emphasis that would simply not be possible in a traditional classroom setting.


An RLO approach actually provides the capability to incorporate a remediation or accelerated approach within the learning process, again without having to create multiple versions of the same course.  For example, questions can be embedded within the learning to reinforce the learning process and assess a student’s acquired knowledge.  If a student answers a question wrong, the courseware can be designed in such a way that will make it possible for the student to be routed to topics and course materials that they were supposed to have already learned.  This will provide flexibility in the learning process to ensure that each student is learning materials that are pointedly relevant and helping him or her meet the learning objectives for the course.



Using RLO’s in courseware design can be a significant differentiator for any learning environment.  This approach will provide greater courseware flexibility and increased personalization for each student.  Using RLO’s in curriculum design enables technology to be used to personalize the learning environment.  This will be a content differentiator for eLearning course.


There is also a pricing efficiency that is attained with an RLO approach.  It takes more initial work to build a course using this object approach, but the cost quickly turns to savings as we look at the life expectancy of any course.  We are able to keep content refreshed and make modifications with ease and flexibility.  This will have a significant impact in keeping costs contained over the life of an entire course.


As courseware development options are evaluated, consider using a platform and consultative approach that will support a “Reusable Learning Object” framework.  This will create flexibility and reduce costs as your organization embraces web-based learning.


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