Technology has enabled us to personalize our surroundings.  Our cars “recognize” us and adjust according to our preferences.  We can watch television programs when it is convenient for us and skip the commercials if we want.  Web sites provide custom views based on our browsing history.  Some frozen pizza actually tastes pretty good.  With all the personalization technology provides why is learning always exempt from personalization?

In recent years there has been a recognition in learning circles that every organization has artifacts that would make useful learning tools.  These artifacts are referred to as reusable learning objects (RLOs).  Organizations interested in leveraging their existing knowledge base and the expertise of their employees would benefit from developing a learning strategy that draws utilizes RLOs.  The benefits include standardization/improvement of processes and procedures, constructive dialogue on value-added topics, reduced dependence on formal/structured training, development of a learning culture, and cost savings in training through greater efficiency.

Here is a white paper on RLOs(One caveat, it was written for learning professionals so it reflects a bias toward formal learning development.) It defines a learning object as “an independent collection of content and media elements, a learning approach (interactivity, learning architecture, context), and metadata (used for storage and
searching).”  Examples include documents, e-learning, formal lesson plans or content outlines and video or audio clips.  Below are recommendations the author provides for selecting learning objects:

  • They should be objective-based. They should accomplish a single learning objective by combining a series of elements including content, media, and interactivity.
  • They should be context-free. Content, media, and interactivity are combined to form a meaningful structure so that the learning object can stand alone from the rest of its associated hierarchy, making it portable, reusable, and relevant as an independent learning experience.
  • They should be interactive. Although this is not always required, engaging learners, making them active participants in the learning experience, is key to having them meet the learning objective.
  • They should be self-descriptive. Search data (or metadata) associate with each element and learning object to be used by the system, authors, and learners.
  • They should be self-contained. Each learning object is capable of either standing alone or standing in unison with other learning objects to create any number of training programs or technical manuals.
  • They should be single-sourced. A learning object is written so that multiple authors, in multiple learning environments, and in multiple delivery formats ranging from print to e-learning, can use it. This requires writing and reuse guidelines and processes that will be discussed later in this book.
  • They should be format-free. To be reused in multiple delivery media, learning objects should be created free of look-and-feel formatting. The formatting happens during the delivery of the learning objects to the learner.

The growth of social media enables organizations to extend the reach of RLOs beyond formal learning events.  Wikis and other forms of social networking provide excellent platforms for informal (personalized) learning.  A learning strategy that incorporates RLOs and social network is a cost effective way to promote learning and increase performance at a greatly reduced cost.  It also enables training teams to focus on broader outcomes instead of getting bogged down in the minutiae of individualized training.