Wisc-Online

Wisc-Online

When Wisc-Online was launched in 2000, the founders had no idea the website would eventually attract 650,000 unique visitors a month from 208 countries (Google Analytics, 2011). The site, a collaborative effort of the 16 colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), was designed to use a digital library of learning objects to improve learning for students at WTCS colleges -- it just so happened the rest of the world came along for the ride.

Learning Like Lego

The learning object approach is more of a building blocks concept. In a simple analogy, one originated by Wayne Hodgins, Director of Worldwide Learning Solutions, think of how you build structures and things with Lego blocks. When you have a pile of Lego blocks in front of you, you have the smallest unit of the building available. Lego blocks come in various shapes, sizes, forms and colors and they can be used together to form an infinite number and variety of structures. Even the “odd” pieces fit together with all of the other pieces so the builder can be as creative as he or she wants to be. That’s the concept behind the learning objects approach to designing courses—put a pile of learning objects in front of a course builder, learning objects that can fit with other learning objects across courses and learning objectives in an wide array of possibilities, and watch courses emerge in creative ways.

The Proof

The fact that learning objects are designed to be adaptable and flexible in any place of learning was a key reason the Wisc-Online project was awarded a three-year, $1.6 million grant in 1999 from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE). The project purposely did not develop courses or a curriculum (Wiley, 2001).

An unexpected endorsement of Wisc-Online came in 2005 when a learning object on the site received the Pirelli International Award in the field of chemistry. The award carried a $15,000 euro prize and was judged by Nobel Prize winners. It was presented in Rome to author Barb Liang, a teacher at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton. The jury wrote that the object, "Construction of the Cell Membrane", was selected "for its science communication effectiveness and ease of use.

Learning objects are a new way of thinking about learning content. Traditionally, content comes in a several-hour chunk called a course. Learning objects are much smaller units of learning, ranging from 2 to 15 minutes.

Learning objects bring you learning that is:

Just enough

if you need only part of a course, you can use just the learning objects you need,

Just in time

Because learning objects are searchable, you can instantly find and take the content you need.

Just for you

Learning objects allow for easy customization of courses for a whole organization or even for each individual.

Self-Contained

Each learning object can be used independently.

Reusable

A single learning object may be used in multiple contexts for multiple purposes.

Aggregated

Learning objects can be grouped into larger collections of content, including traditional course structures.

Tagged with Metadata

Every learning object has descriptive information allowing it to be easily found by a search.