Many different types of resources are developed in relation to Blackboard, which range from introductory training guides to interactive learning materials. The development of good quality resources is time consuming, so it is worth taking the time to find out if appropriate resources exist rather than “reinvent the wheel”. There are many sources of materials and one of them is bbmatters! Another excellent resource is the freely available OpenCourseWare available from MIT (http://ocw.mit.edu/), which has a wide range of subject materials. Other materials can be purchased such as the Course Cartridges produced by publishers for Blackboard. The learning technologists in your institution will be able to help in the search for suitable resources.
Where a resource does not exist the academic may decide to develop it. If the resource is to be interactive this may involve working in partnership with learning technologists. Academics are more likely to reuse resources when they have been involved in their development, as the resource will be designed for their learning objectives, and they will have invested their own time and effort. The development of interactive resources should follow one of the software life cycle models which include: specification, design, implementation, testing and maintenance. Students can also develop resources which could be used with other students. These can range from the creation of questions for quizzes to the development of web resources.
Resources are more likely to be used again if they are:
- High quality
- Student centred
- Clear learning objectives
It is more likely that small resources can be adapted to suit the needs of different curricula. Student centred resources with clear learning objectives will enable students to achieve their learning outcomes. Materials also need to be of high quality in both pedagogy and technology to be accessible and successful.
The concept of reusable learning objects is not new as some academics have often used the same lecture notes for years with minimum reflection about improving them. Blackboard can also make this easier as it is only necessary to upload materials once! “Document dumping” by uploading documents and Powerpoint slides is a good way to introduce staff to using Blackboard. However, the risk is that they will not move beyond this phase to explore the full potential of e-learning.
Another type of resource are case studies which show how different pedagogies are being used in learning and teaching with VLEs. Examples are the Learning Environments and Pedagogy (LEAP) project supported by the HE Academy (http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/leap.htm) and the JISC ‘Effective Practice with e-Learning’ guide (http://www.jisc.ac.uk/index.cfm?name=pub_eff_prac_elearn).
There is much academic and technical debate about the development and reuse of resources, called Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs). There are various definitions of RLOs (Polsani, 2003); some refer just to the learning object and others include the learning activity. Wiley uses the definition of “any digital resource that can be reused to support learning” in his free online book on the Instructional Use of Learning Objects (Wiley, 2000). His book aims “to go beyond the technological hype and connect learning objects to instruction and learning” and has sections relating LOs to pedagogy and case study examples. Littlejohn’s book provides other approaches to sharing and reusing resources for e-learning which are given from the perspective of school, further and higher education as well as industry.
Littlejohn, A., (2003) Reusing Online Resources: A Sustainable Approach to E-Learning, Open Flexible Learning Series, Routledge Falmer
Polsani, P.R., (2003) Use and Abuse of Reusable Learning Objects, Journal of Digital Information, Volume 3 Issue 4, Article No. 164, 2003
Wiley, D. A. (2000). Connecting learning objects to instructional design theory: A definition, a metaphor, and a taxonomy. In D. A. Wiley (Ed.), The Instructional Use of Learning Objects: Online Version. Retrieved 24 January, 2005 from: http://reusability.org/read/chapters/wiley.doc