Instructional Technology/Creating a Marketplace for Reusable Learning Objects
The Need for a Marketplace
- The profession of Instructional Technology has recognized the need to respond to increasing pressure to create learning experiences or environments which can get
.... the right content to the right person at the right time for the right end-user/learner experience.
Just-in-time learning needs to be flexible, individualized, timely, and meaningful. Learning objects can be viewed as fundamental building blocks which can be used to respond to the increasing demand for just-in-time learning. Creating learning objects which can be re-used by different learners or instructional designers, in different circumstances, under different contexts, will have a tremendous positive impact on responding to the need for just-in-time learning.
- There exists a vast number of individuals (e.g. teachers, instructional designers, business people) who are creating a vast and varied assortment of Instructional Technology/Learning Management Systems/Learning Objects. Currently, many learning objects are proprietary (say in business settings), or developed for a particular use (narrowly conceived) or developed in a particular format (which does not allow for easy transfer to another format).
Common methods for retrieving learning objects at this time are basically course portals, course packs, and learning object repositories.
In order for a particular learning object to maximize it's potential to be re-used by other learners in different educational contexts, it is essential that a system be developed whereby learning objects can be identified, located, retrieved and used with relative ease. There are obstacles that currently exist which make the re-use of learning objects very difficult, if not impossibe at times.
One such problem is that software vendors have standards which only they own and that can restrict use. Another problem is that some standards which are being used to develop learning objects (such as SCORM-Shareable Content Object Reference Model) may be too strict to allow easy exchanges. Standards such as this one may lack in flexibility even though SCORM's intention is to make the development of learning objects more uniform with the idea that uniformity creates ease of exchange. A third problem is with learning management systems which have their own databases where learning objects are deposited but not open for exhange. In other words, they are a closed system. Finally, another problem which requires tackling is the need to find a workable system to manage digital rights of the creators of the learning objects. 
Identifying, confronting and working through problems such as the ones identified will allow for
How a Marketplace or a Learning-Object Publishing Economy Can Be Created
Stephen Downes (see reference 2)has proposed an architecture for a DLORN (distributed learning object repository).His architecture is comprised of a distributed network which would include the core components of:
- a learning object repository (to be hosted by vendors on their sites where the vendors have the servers and create the metadata)
- a metadata repository (which is hosted independently and which would harvest metadata)
- eLearning system (which queries, retrieves and displays learning objects)
The design principles of a system such as DLORN as envisioned by Stephen Downes include the following:
- Open Standards
- Royalty free standards
- Open-source infrasructure layer
- Open or proprietary service layer
- Component based and distributed architecture
- Open access
- Open Market
- Standards Tolerance
- Multiple Channels
- Multi-Party Metadata
- Integration with the semantic web
- Multiple data types
It is important to Stephen Downes that this model (DLORN) not be set up to mimic current models which are more like a Library Model where the learning materials are seen as similar to library books or learning resources which are managed. Rather, he envisions this network being able to create Learning Opportunities whereby a learner could access a learning object, a journal article, a class or seminar, or even instructors and coaches directly.
To make this proposed system work, there would be three critical steps as envisioned by Stephen Downes and these are:
- Breaking down the different components of a Learning Content Management or Learning Management System in to distinct, stand-alone parts
- Having multiple instances of these parts
- Having these instances indexed ot registered
Stephen Downes is not the only party to be working hard in confronting obstacles and barriers to the development of a marketplace for learning objects. Louise Pugliese identified onCourse in her article where she states
this new model will be designed, in the long run, to support a marketplace of services designed to provide effective and efficient distribution of a wide array of standards-based digital learning objects and simple management tools that can be integrated with a variety of standards-based learner management systems. 
Learning objects are very important tools for Global Market because context independency supports the development of multi-language and multi-cultural resources with aid of simple XML files. Therefore, universities and international companies can support universal education or training without worrying about cultural and language issues (Lin, 2001).
- Pugliese Pugliese, L. C.(2002. The transformation of educational publishing: The emergence and growth of a teacher-centered learning-object environment. Technos: Quarterly for Education and Technology. Retrieved on April, 19, 2007, from http://www.ait.net/technos/tq_11/3pugliese.php.
- The source is taken from Design and Reusability of Learning Objects in an Academic Context: A New Economy of Education? in USDLA Journal by Stephen Downes http://www.usdla.org/html/journal/JAN03_Issue/article01.html
- This list of problems is taken from Design and Reusability of Learning Objects in an Academic Context: A New Economy of Education? in USDLA Journal by Stephen Downes http://www.usdla.org/html/journal/JAN03_Issue/article01.html
- Pugliese, L. C.(2002). The transformation of educational publishing: The emergence and growth of a teacher-centered learning-object environment. Technos: Quarterly for Education and Technology. Retrieved on April, 19, 2007, from http://www.ait.net/technos/tq_11/3pugliese.php.
Lin, F. O. (2001). A Critique of Stephen Downes' Article, ``Learning Objects: A Chinese Perspective. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Retrieved on April, 2007 from http://www.ouhk.edu.hk/cridal/gdenet/Policy/Global/EAP3A.htm.