Decentralized Collaborative Approach to Learning Object Development


The University of British Columbia (UBC) is moving rapidly on internal, national, and international fronts to realize the promise of learning objects. UBC is a large research institution with a decentralized approach to administration; individual faculties have traditionally managed their own educational technology implementations and projects. The potential benefits of a learning object approach, most notably reuse and flexibility, inspired a collaborative effort. Eight distinct campus units—including five faculties, Distance Education and Technology, UBC Libraries, and IT Services—submitted a joint project proposal to develop a learning object infrastructure. The learning object project is a hybrid of decentralized and centralized organizational principles. Although working toward a common goal, each partner has a unique set of circumstances, needs, and resources. Larger faculties wishing to preserve their autonomy within the larger project require customized branding, interface and experience design, specialized metadata schemas, and secure departmental hosting of resources. Yet other imperatives suggest centralized solutions: some smaller faculties lack the resources to maintain their own repositories, and the demand for a central one-stop portal to search for objects is clear. The key to balancing these seemingly contradictory directions is to adapt the strategies of larger learning object projects to the campus level, such as adhering to shared standards and developing a robust set of interrepository communication protocols. UBC is an active participant in Canadian endeavors such as CANARIE, BELLE, and CanCore, and is contributing to an international Learning Resource Catalogue with its international partners in the Universitas 21 consortium. The ultimate goal is a diverse and robust learning object ecology that fosters resource exchange on campus, and among national and international colleagues.

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