Student at computer

October 1, 2009, by Teaching at Nottingham

How effective are reusable learning objects at supporting didactic lectures?

Andrew Fisher: “This project designed two Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs) which were then used to supplement a core first year module in philosophical logic taken by eighty students. RLOs are reusable web-based resources with a single learning objective, with the functional requirements of accessibility and reusability. They are popular within the Sciences and Medicine, but are used less frequently within the Humanities. The question driving the project was to what extent can RLOs effectively support traditional didactic lectures?

“An initial focus group was held. Results were gained through a recorded discussion, and helped to identify the student’s learning needs. With funding from the Centre for Integrative Learning, the project employed a software developer. And after a number of consultations and feedback sessions with the developer, which were informed by the initial focus group, the RLOs were developed.

“To ascertain the impact on the student’s learning and how well the RLOs supported the lectures, there was another focus group and a skills audit. Thirty of the cohorts of eighty students were questioned before and after using the RLOs. The questions focused on the skills that the students believed they possessed. Did they, for instance, think they were skilled at working independently, at problem solving, at asking for help etc? The results were very positive. All of those students who used the RLOs felt that it had a positive impact on their learning. Half felt it improved their problem solving skills and three quarters suggested the RLOs were an excellent tool to reflect on their learning practice and current ‘gaps’ in their knowledge.

“Reflecting on these pilot RLOs in philosophical logic makes it apparent that the students appreciated the ability to take ownership of their learning. They also appreciated the ability to have a resource focused on their needs. The RLO was a useful vehicle which facilitated reflection on how the students were learning, and gave them the space (without external pressure) to be honest with themselves and reflect on their gaps in knowledge; and so helped support the lectures.

“It is clear that RLOs are popular as they were requested for all philosophy modules. This, though not impossible, would be a challenge. What would be easier, and what is a recommendation of this project is the formation of a network of RLO’s based around philosophical logic.

“The project recommends further study into how lecturers think RLOs would best be used. For it is true that RLOs can supplement lectures, but there remains a further question how can this best be achieved?

“In light of the results of the project the RLOs will be available to all students in 2009/10.”

Prof Andrew Fisher
Lecturer / Director of Teaching for the Faculty of Arts/Senior Tutor
School of Humanities

Paper presented at the University’s Fifteenth Learning & Teaching conference (September, 2009). This work was funded by the Centre for Integrative Learning

Notes: Andrew has written up the project in a short paper (MS Word, 55Kb).

This article was originally published as part of PESL’s Teaching at Nottingham collection.

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