Monday, November 22, 2010

Moodle Monday: Learning-Object Repositories

In most face-to-face classes, digital resources have been underutilized.  That happens for many reasons: lack of teacher planning time to implement new content, no access for students to reach the digital resources, not wanting to veer away from approved curriculum or a textbook... you name it.  And while this weakens the richness of a face-to-face class, it still is able to function, as students plod through the textbook like they have done for years.

In an online course, however, weaving digital resources into a curriculum is an absolute necessity.  While there has been progress in digital textbooks, they still are not prevalent.  Access also isn't an issue, since if students have access to the course in general, they will have access to the resources within it.  And given that the entire instruction takes place through a digital medium, a teacher's personality or classroom management cannot make up for dull materials lacking interaction.

But as most instructors will avow, it is the time factor that matters.  While looking to weave in a webquest or a digital lesson into your face-to-face course could take up quite a bit of your planning in a face-to-face class, it will actually save you time in your digital classroom, since you would be building that lesson or resource from scratch yourself.

There are a slew of resources out there, ranging from full lessons to video tutorials to simulations, and much more.  The term for all of these is learning objects.  Well-made learning objects are easy to implement in the digital class (whether directly linked, embedded, or imported into your Moodle class).  They provide clear outcomes and instructions that are intuitive.  They also make it easy for the teacher to find what she's looking for, with a searchable database and drill-down options.  Here is a quick glance at some excellent learning-object repositories out there.

Merlot - MERLOT (Multi-media Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) is a database of online resources. MERLOT offers descriptions and links to web-based resources, simulations, learning objects, lessons, and more in virtually every subject area. In addition, MERLOT offers user ratings and comments of the items.

While MERLOT is designed for higher education, the resources they link to are often very applicable for K-12 education. In addition, MERLOT offers an online content builder for teachers to create their own learning objects, as well as many resources for online teaching.

Curriki - Curriki is a repository of all types of resources for K-12 online education, ranging from individual rubrics, resources, activities, or lessons, all the way to full courses. Like Merlot, it features a community of educators who contribute lessons and rate/evaluate others, to give you a peer review process for determining quality.

One bonus feature for Curriki is the extensive amount of resources for K-8 in addition to 9-12. It will allow you to search the site by those grade levels as well.

OER Commons - Just like Merlot, the Open Educational Resources (OER) Commons has a database of learning objects available on the web.  However, this is geared about equally to K-12 as it is post-secondary.

Connexions - Connexions, like Merlot or Curriki, is a learning object repository with an online community that ranks and rates objects in addition to submitting them. Connexions has a great range in the grade level of intended objects. While mostly designed for higher education, there are resources available all the way down into elementary grades.

NROC/Hippocampus - Hippocampus offers interactive courses and units that are free for individual educators to use with their course (there is a cost for institutional use). These courses are in high school subjects such as Government, Algebra, Geometry, Biology, Religion, Physics, Statistics, and US History.

The materials are aligned with both free digital textbooks as well as published textbooks (which many schools might already own).

Wisconsin-Online - Wisconsin-Online has an extensive learning object repository, featuring quite a few interactive simulations. It features an expanded range of learning objects in many specific vocational areas (even cosmetology, hydraulics, criminal justice, and dental hygiene, among others). It also offers quite a few ELL materials.

Udemy - Udemy offers recordings of seminar lectures and other materials brought together around a specific course topic. The materials are all modular, and can be used separately.

In addition to these, don't forget the "learning object repositories" of DE Streaming, Atomic Learning, YouTube, and Teachertube, all of which offer great amounts of multimedia content for your classroom.

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