Learning Objects in Humanities Education

  1. 1. Terry Butler

    University of Alberta

  2. 2. Catherine Caws

    University of Victoria

  3. 3. Scott Leslie


  4. 4. Griff Richards

    Simon Fraser University

  5. 5. Ray Siemens

    University of Victoria

  6. 6. Norm Friesen

    Simon Fraser University

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I n Understanding Media, Marshal McLuhan suggests that
the content of any new medium, at least initially, is provided
by the medium that it is in the process of supplanting. For
example, the content of early writing, as in Homer's Odyssey,
is the spoken word, and the content of early cinema was theatre
or vaudeville. Developments in Web technology and the use
of this technology in education also seem to follow this pattern.
Exclusive concern with document appearance and presentation
— characteristics inherited from the print world — have
gradually given way on the Web to dynamic and multimedia
formats, and to distributed organizational mechanisms.
Similarly, in distance education and educational technology,
the Web initially took as its content the lectures, overheads,
discussions and other aspects of the traditional classroom. Many
of these aspects — down to the closed classroom door, the
grade book and the classroom whiteboard — have been
faithfully transferred onto the Web via password-protected
course management systems like WebCT and Blackboard.
However, attempts to replicate the face-to-face classroom seem
to be giving way to distributed systems of 'Learning Objects'
that exploit the intrinsically decentralized and decomposable
nature of Web-based content, and that lend themselves to both
'blended' and 'distance' learning approaches.
'Learning Objects' is a term used to describe resources that can
be used, shared and reused across a wide variety of educational
contexts. Such resources can include images, video, Flash
animations, text and HTML documents, as well as more complex aggregations of this content. These resources can take
the form of cultural content (e.g. articles, broadcast clips, or
Websites) that has been adapted for use in educational contexts.
The use of the term 'object' is an intentional reference to
object-oriented programming and design, which has made use
of modularity, hierarchical content structures and standardized
interfaces to promote the use and reuse of programming
resources in software development. With Learning Objects, it
is hoped that some of these advantages can accrue also to
resources used in education. Like content developed through
object-oriented design, these Learning Objects will hopefully
benefit from the congruence of their nature with the
fundamental characteristics of the Web: its distributed nature,
the modular, or decomposable nature of its content, and its use
of agreed upon or de facto technical standards for file formats,
descriptive information, and connectivity protocols (e.g. XML,
Dublin Core, http).
A wide variety of projects in which Learning Objects play a
central role have been underway both in Canada and abroad.
These include the recently completed, pan-Canadian eduSource
project, which has produced infrastructure and support
mechanisms that are being further utilized in the Lionshare,
Apollo and the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse projects.
Many of these large-scale projects collect resources across the
humanities, social and natural sciences. Other 'repository' or
Learning Object collection projects, such as FLORE, MusicGrid
and Internet Shakespeare Editions focus specifically on
language learning, and humanities subjects.
The proposed panel will critically assess the opportunities and
challenges presented by a variety of LO initiatives that are
provincial, national and international in scope, and that reflect
the trends described above. Each panel member and project
represented brings a different emphasis, representative of a
different cross-section of users, relating and contributing in
different ways to humanities education. Each member also
brings a different background from humanities education, and
the extensive experience in the use of digital content in this
area. Discussion among the panelists and with the audience
will focus on the issues, advantages and challenges of this
approach in humanities education:
Terry Butler is the Director of Research Computing in the
Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta, and recently
completed a stint as Interim Director of Academic Technologies
for Learning. Terry works closely with faculty both in the
humanities and other discipline areas in the integration of
computer technology in research and teaching. As lead on the
Technology Edge project, he has researched and developed
multimedia content to improve the information technology
skills of liberal arts students.
Catherine Caws is an assistant professor in both the
Department of French and the Department of Curriculum and
Instruction at the University of Victoria. Dr. Caws conducts
research in collaborative learning in higher education,
computer-assisted language learning, and computer networking,
and she plays a leadership role in the FLORE repository of
French Language Learning Objects.
Norm Friesen is currently Director of the CanCore Metadata
Initiative, and principal investigator in the SSHRC-sponsored
learningspaces.org project. He is also a visiting Scholar at the
School of Communications at Simon Fraser University, and a
member of the Canadian delegation for the ISO sub-committee
on "Information Technology for Learning, Education and
Scott Leslie is the Manager of the BCcampus Learning
Resources Centre, a multi-disciplinary 'open content' repository.
In addition, he researches course management systems,
repository and eportfolio software as part of the Western
Cooperative on Educational Telecommunications' Edutools.info
Griff Richards concerns himself with the convivial use of
technology to promote the creation, management and transfer
of human knowledge. Griff has a Ph.D. in Educational
Technology from Concordia, and has been active in the
research, development and implementation of computers in
education and training for 25 years. His most recent work has
been in the context of the Mellon Foundation Lionshare Peer
to Peer Learning Object Repository project ( <http://lio
nshare.its.psu.edu/main/> ).
Ray Siemens is Canada Research Chair in Humanities
Computing and Associate Professor of English at the University
of Victoria. Director of the Digital Humanities / Humanities
Computing Summer Institute, founder of Malaspina U-C's
Centre for Digital Humanities Innovation, and founding editor
of the electronic scholarly journal Early Modern Literary
Studies, he is also author of many articles focusing on areas
where literary studies and computational methods intersect.

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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Victoria

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

June 15, 2005 - June 18, 2005

139 works by 236 authors indexed

Affiliations need to be double checked.

Conference website: http://web.archive.org/web/20071215042001/http://web.uvic.ca/hrd/achallc2005/

Series: ACH/ICCH (25), ALLC/EADH (32), ACH/ALLC (17)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None