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Learning objects

Learning objects

Table of Contents

    Learning and development (L&D) professionals face two major challenges: 

    1. Employees struggle to learn new concepts because the training material is too complex or disorganized
    2. L&D teams can’t keep up with the demands for new training resources. 

    Both can seriously impact your organization’s learning outcomes.

    That’s where learning objects (LOs) come in.

    These short pieces of training content break down complicated training topics, allowing L&D professionals to personalize learning experiences and making it easier for learners to assimilate and retain information. At the same time, L&D professionals can reduce their workloads by reusing the content in different ways.

    And the best part? LOs are easy to create, update, and incorporate into your training programs. We’ll show you how.

    Our guide tackles the fundamentals of LOs, including: 

    • What learning objects (LOs) are
    • Why they’re so important 
    • The components of an LO
    • Examples of LOs you can use in your learning environments 


    What are learning objects (LOs)?

    Learning objects are short, standalone pieces of training content that can be combined to create a personalized learning experience. 

    Think of them like building blocks than be stacked in different ways to suit different learners and scenarios. Or, if you think about a whole online learning course as a music album, each LO is a single song on it. 

    LOs can be videos, interactions, quizzes, games, or simulations. 

    By breaking complex concepts into small blocks, learning objects make it easier for learners to assimilate and retain information.

    The term originally comes from object-oriented programming, but it has made its way into learning design. Don’t worry, though, there’s no actual programming involved here. 

    To get a bit more academic, the taxonomy of an e-learning course goes like this—an e-learning course consists of learning modules that consist of LOs.

    LOs are:

    • Instructional: They cover one single learning goal
    • Reusable: They are standalone or you can easily combine them with other LOs 
    • Interoperable: Interoperability means that you can use them with a whole host of different Learning Management Systems (LMSs), web browsers, operating systems, etc.
    • Extractable: You can categorize and tag LOs with metadata to make them easily searchable and discoverable through LO repositories  

    The beauty of LOs is that they are reusable. You can upload them to your LMS individually or as a SCORM package once, and use them in various e-learning courses.

     That way, development time is shorter. 

    Importantly, LOs work for every training scenario. Whether your training has its basis in social learning theory or behaviorism, learning objects are an effective way to present the material. 


    Why are LOs important?

    So, what are the benefits of LOs?

    First and foremost, LOs are reusable and modular. Each LO covers a single learning topic or objective.

    This means you can create entire LO repositories and combine them in whatever way you need. A very useful thing for those organizations who want to support agile learning.

    It’s possible to build a whole professional development course, whether it’s sales training or onboarding, using LOs. 

    LOs benefit learners in a pedagogical sense too. Modern learners are very busy, having about 24 minutes each week for learning. LOs provide short bursts of targeted knowledge to busy learners, making it easier to build new skills. 

    In a nutshell, LOs align with the needs and goals of modern organizations and learners. They support microlearning and mobile learning, two of the biggest current e-learning trends. 

    LOs provide some extra benefits too:

    • Boosting learning engagement through enabling adaptive, shareable, and interactive learning content 
    • Improving knowledge retention because they appeal to different learning styles 
    • Allowing for customized learning paths because they can be easily rearranged to fit the needs of individual learners 
    • Improving training accuracy because they’re easy to make and update

    But what exactly does an LO consist of? We’ll answer that in the next part of the guide.


    Five components of LOs

    You can’t build an LO without knowing what to put in it. So, here are the five components that each LO has.

    Component #1: Title

    Just like songs, pictures, and other digital multimedia, an LO needs a short and punchy title to pique learner interest and engage them. It’s the first thing your learners will see when they fire up the e-learning course, so you need to make a good impression. 

    Of course, the titles of your learning resources should also be descriptive and informative.

    When thinking about how to title your instructional content, keep in mind:

    • Who your audience is 
    • What tone you want your course to have 
    • Learners should immediately understand what the learning activity is about


    Component #2: Subtitle

    This part of the LO is not mandatory, but if you’re aiming for a high-quality course design, you should include one. 

    The subtitle is an opportunity to give learners a bit more context and information about what they’ll tackle in the course and what they can expect. So, take advantage of it. 

    The same rules as titles apply: Keep them short, informative, punchy, and engaging.


    Component #3: Learning objective

    As we mentioned already, each LO covers one learning objective. This is where you explain that objective to your learners.

    Learners should know what they will be able to do with the knowledge that the learning activity is about to give them.

    Additionally, here you can explain to your course takers how the particular LO fits in the bigger picture of the entire online course. 

    Writing clear and concise descriptions for each LO will keep your learners engaged. After all, adult learners like to know why they’re learning something and how it will benefit them

    Make sure to also include the time necessary to complete the object. This is especially important if you’re designing with mobile learning in mind.


    Component #4: e-learning content

    The actual learning content is the most important part of the LO and it can come in any form.

    Text-based lessons, videos, animations, quizzes, games, etc.

    Any type of SCORM-compliant e-learning content works as an LO.

    The main thing here is that the content should fit the learning objectives you want to achieve. That, of course, is the job of your instructional and learning experience designers


    Component #5: Metadata

    Metadata is the description of an LO that course designers use to locate a particular object within an LO repository such as MERLOT or learning platform. Most companies today use LMSs to manage their training programs. 

    Metadata makes it easy to search for LOs in your LMS. That’s why it’s a good idea to define a structure for how to label metadata. Trust us, as you build a repository of LOs within your LMS, clearly labeled metadata will be a lifesaver. 

    A typical set of learning object metadata includes information such as the date of creation, language, and a unique identifier code assigned to an LO. 

    Discoverability is one of the main features of the LO concept, so there is standardization for metadata for LOs under the IEEE 1484.12 standard

    Using the correct metadata standard also adds interoperability. If you’re switching your LMS, you’ll be glad you used standard formats for your LO metadata.

    Up next, we’ll look at some types of LOs you can use in your e-learning courses.


    Three examples of LOs you can use

    To give you an idea of what an LO can look like, here are three examples. Keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive. An LO can be any online resource that has the goal of teaching something new to learners. 

    So let’s see just a few examples of learning objects that you may want to add to you training programs.


    Example #1: Online presentations

    An online presentation is an e-learning classic. You can simply make it with Microsoft PowerPoint or other presentation software. 

    Of course, today’s presentations aren’t limited to just text. You can easily add images, videos, animations, or audio content to engage learners.

    However, sometimes the simplest option is the best. Short text paragraphs can convey ideas in a really clear way. It’s also an excellent way to sum up the most important takeaways from a lesson. 

    Presentations have been a staple of higher education for a reason. They’re inexpensive to create, yet very powerful and engaging when used properly.


    Example #2: Interactive elements

    Interactivity does wonders for learner engagement. Interactive LOs encourage students to participate actively in the learning activity. That means engagement, but also more accountability and a deeper connection with the material. 

    These can come in the form of interactive timelines, video tutorials, digital FAQs, clickable images, and more. Top LMSs and e-learning authoring tools will have templates you can use to create these easily.  

    It’s a particularly good way to present product knowledge training, for instance. Instead of just listing the different features of a product, you can use interactive images to showcase its functionalities. Learners can explore it on their own, clicking on pictures to reveal more information. 


    Example #3: Quizzes & games

    One of the strongest trends in L&D right now is gamification. Taking cues from video games, gamified LOs contain features like leaderboards, high scores, achievements, and most importantly—interactivity. 

    These objects are very engaging because they are multimedia by design, combining images, text, and audio.

    Common educational games include word jumbles, sorting games, and of course—quizzes. 

    There’s nothing like a good quiz to test your learners’ knowledge and reinforce the lessons taught to them. 

    Not to mention, with modern learning technology quizzes are no longer just static web pages with tick boxes. An LMS can give you truly interactive quiz experiences with hotspots, sequences, and drag-and-drop functionality. You can even add sound effects and timers to up the ante.

    More than just an online version of a pen and paper test, these quizzes are engaging, fun, and very dynamic. 

    Plus, they’re a great tool for gauging how learners are performing and identifying knowledge gaps at an individual, team, or organizational level. L&D teams can simply pull LMS reports to monitor quiz results. 

    Before you run off to create your own learning objects, stick with us while we recap the key points.


    Next steps

    LOs are the gift that keep giving. These small blocks of learning content are quick to create, engaging, and reusable. As a result, they solve two of the biggest challenges training professionals face: ineffective training material and heavy workloads.

    This approach to instructional design unlocks more learner engagement, boosts knowledge retention, and makes customized learning paths possible

    LOs can be used as standalone microlearning modules, or combined to make up a more comprehensive e-learning course. This saves teams valuable time, as the same resource can be uploaded to your LMS once and reused over and over again.  

    All you need to start harnessing the benefits of learning objects is a robust LMS. It acts as a repository for LOs, allowing you to organize and deliver them to learners.

    Don’t stop learning now! Explore our glossary to discover more resources on the world of learning and development.