Repositories Folly (FoD Syndrome)

Previously on CDB, on the doubts of “Learning object repositories”… “The folly is that educators will give up some time to share information about resources they have created or used”.

Now a different slant. I had lunch recently with a colleague working on a new grant funded project– creating discipline-specific “learning objects” and yes, their project was also going to build Yet Another Repository. The definition of “learning objects” was so vague, it was almost white text on white paper. “Online instructional learning modules that are innovative and engaging” was pretty much it. And while this person did say they had considered my suggestion of just using MERLOT to deposit the so-called objects, that was discarded were going to spend time building a new database.

There is nothing wrong with building a collection. Heck, I thought it was worth it.

Maybe someday we might need a “repository of repositories” but it seems but a re-hash of what I am now calling Field of Dreams Syndrome (FoDs)- “If you build it, they will come and dump their objects in” (very unlikely) along with “If you Build it, the Objects Will Magically Re-Assemble Themselves Into Something Else”. I am still looking for examples of meaningful content built from objects. I would love to given some thing to sink my teeth into.

Collecting learning resources, materials, heck “objects” is fine and worthy, but again, is not the whole enchilada. It is the instructional context around the technology doo-hickies that is more interesting (and perhaps more re-usable). The technology of an interactive Flash gizmo is going to have s short shelf life, but an idea of building an inquiry-based exploration around it….. well good ideas live longer, you can always put a new gizmo in the middle.

But I hear them clearing more cornfields…

If this kind of stuff has value, please support me by tossing a one time PayPal kibble or monthly on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
Profile Picture for CogDog The Blog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so)


  1. Hi Alan,

    It would be helpful to me if you would play devil’s advocate on the LOR “field of dreams” idea described below. This is at the proposal development stage and perhaps it can be made to work out in interesting ways with some guidance.



    The problem addressed in this project is to shorten the long delay in time between the publication of interesting scientific research findings and the educational use of those findings to enhance introductory science courses. The conventional dissemination process normally delays the teaching of new science findings by as much as four years or longer. The main objective of this project is to enable the production of teaching materials in the form of sharable research summaries of new findings in science that would be available from Learning Object Repositories. A sharable research summary is a structured set of teaching materials designed to be understanable by students in their last year of High School. These teaching summaries would include the following sections: (1) a one paragraph research news summary, (2) table of contents, (3) a description of related research and theory, (4) the study hypothesis or goal, (5) a description of the research methods, (6) description of the main findings, (7) critical thinking reviews of the article, (8) fill-in-the-blank self test questions, and (9) multiple choice test items for use in examinations. These expected teaching summaries would form a structured unit of content about the source article complete with both self test and examination components to accommodate the culture of students who only study material that they believe is going to be on a course examination.

    The expected project outcomes include: (1) science faculty teaching advanced undergraduate courses will be utilizing student assignments for producing sharable research summaries, (2) a substantial number of student produced summaries will be “published” as teaching summaries in searchable Learning Object Repositories. (3) High School and college instructors teaching introductory science courses will be using those Learning Objects (4) there will be hundreds of these article summaries as Learning Objects in federated Repositories, and (5) there will be increased collaboration between science researchers and science educators through their mutual use of Learning Object Repositories and through their using RSS syndication of the teaching summaries in Web Logs. Achieving these outcomes involves activities in several areas.

    The project activities would be initially focused on helping biology and psychology teachers use teaching summary content in introductory science courses and also on helping science faculty teaching advanced university science courses use the assignments to enable their students to produce teaching summaries. The users of teaching summaries include: grade 12 High School students, introductory life science college students, and instructors teaching introductory science courses in both High School and College. The teaching summary producers would be the students in advanced science courses, and their course instructors would be the recognized reviewers of the summaries. The project activities that address the needs of these audiences include facilitating the community of educators in designing appropriate course assignments plus extending open source software for processing these student assignments into international standards based Learning Objects that also conform to accessibility standards.

    The support for this processing would come from extending existing open source software to convert text summaries into Learning Objects. For broad adoption two types of the open source software would be developed: website based services for processing uploaded student assignment files into Learning Objects, and a PC version that extends the OpenOffice suite. The adoption of these new teaching activities would be further supported by the development of a community style website for involved science educators teaching about research in biology and psychology. This site would provide information on the progress of the project dissemination, assignment utilization, Best Practices, Question and Answer for technical issues, software downloads, linkages with ePortfolio initiatives, and RSS syndication so that it could be used with news aggregators. Also, presentations about the project would be made at conferences attended by faculty teaching life sciences.

    The evaluation of the success of the project involves several sources of information from students, educators, participating institutions, participating Learning Object Repositories, and independent reviews of the student produced Learning Objects. The range of evaluative information extends from assessments of the student’s comprehension and retention of individual teaching summaries to statistical usage measures of the diffusion of this innovation within the fabric of science education and research networks. For example, currently the phrase “sharable research summary” yields zero hits on a Goggle search and this would serve as one of the project baselines. The most telling statistical summary would be the average number of days between the publication of a research article and the utilization of that finding in introductory science courses.

  2. Bruce,

    It sounds like an interesting project and some top of the head thoughts:

    (1) Why burden yourself with connotations by calling the research summaries “learning objects”? They sound like something different to me.

    (2) Where wil the studetns or contributors be culling the research from? Or who’s research is being summarized?

    (3) it would be more interesting to build as a design element a notion of commenting into the posted summaries, or some way of extending the dialogue. Or why not have some other students evaluate what their peers are posting? Create some sort of slash-dot like popularity scale?

    (4) It sounds like th eplan is to build YAR (Yet Another Repository) where I think it would make more sense to build a site that might collect the content but file it at an existing LOR such as MERLOT, or talk to me off-blog about a possibility of using a version of our MLX. Shhhh.

    I would not call this folly or FOD, but advise you that the road to building is long. Hopefully you have some partners with the buy in to be part of the iput stream.

Comments are closed.