2.1 Reusable Learning Content (RLC)
It is often said that learning resources are insufficient to meet the increasing needs of higher education which is expanding rapidly around the world including in developing countries. Creating digital resources requires large investment, and the process of developing everything from scratch is only viable for courses with huge numbers of student or sizeable budgets. Reusing learning content, therefore, is one of the essential strategies for a sustainable approach to e-learning (Littlejohn, 2003).
Koper (2003) argues that many educational institutions are adopting new approaches to increase effectiveness through reusable online resources. There are several reasons that highlight the importance of adopting reusable learning resources such as the need for:
- a more personalized approach to learning that can address different learner's cognitive styles
- collaboration, discussion and product creation, which plays an important role for learning facilitators
- teaching complex skills such as analysis and argumentation
- lifelong learning and accreditation of competences and performance improvement
The definition of reusable learning content has resulted in much debate. Different approaches vary from "digitized entity which can be used, reused or referenced during technology supported learning" to " discrete elements of learning content that meet a defined learning objective and are independently assessable" (Rehak and Mason, 2003).
A broad definition was adopted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) who describe reusable learning content as learning objects either "digital or non-digital, that may be used for learning, education or training" (IEEE, 2002). Current definitions, however, have focused on digital entities, such as "any digital resource that can be reused to support learning" (Wiley 2002). Another refined definition states that digital resource must be reproducible, addressable (i.e. connected with a URL and has metadata) and is used to perform learning or support activities, and made available for others to use (Hummel, Manderveld, Tattersall, & Koper, 2004). A similar approach describes reusable learning content as digital educational components that can be "identified, tracked, referenced, used and reused for a variety of learning purposes" (The Le@rning Federation schools online curriculum content initiative, 2002)
The definition adopted in this unit is grounded on the ICOPER Reference Model. Reusable Learning Content (RLC) are digital content, reproducible and addressable that can be reused multiple times in multiple ways, in multiples purposes, in multiples formats and in multiples contexts by multiples users in this ICOPER context. RLC can, therefore, include "units of learning" (see ICOPER Deliverable 5.1: Design to combine instructional models with collaboration services and rich media (open) content, 2010), "learning objects" (ibid.), "teaching materials", "rich media content" (ibid.), "interactive components" and "open educational resources" that are designed to be reused.
Thus the effectiveness of the reusability requires a formal description of the online learning resource through metadata. Metadata is structured information that describes a resource and should make it easier to be located, retrieved and reused. Metadata is often called data about data or information about information.
At this stage it would be useful to consider your understanding of some fundamental questions about reusability.