Learning Technology Standards and Inquiry-Based Learning

Ola Berge, James D. Slotta
InSITE 2005  •  Volume 5  •  2005
The proliferation of technology-enhanced learning environments and digital learning resources in formal educational institutions (both K-12 and higher education) has led to a corresponding interest in improving the cost-efficiency related to developing and deploying such materials within these institutions. In the e-learning industry, which has been primarily concerned with training in corporations and the military, this issue is approached through standardization of digital learning material in the form of learning objects. The Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) has emerged as the predominant approach to standardization among early adopters of learning object technology. While SCORM might aim at being agnostic with respect to pedagogical approaches, there is some concern that SCORM-based learning objects would not be well suited to all of the pedagogical approaches desired within formal educational contexts - particularly within those emphasizing social aspects of learning and inquiry-based learning. An alternative standard that attempts to describe use of learning objects more broadly and with greater flexibility is that of the IMS Learning Design (LD). We analyze the implications of the SCORM and LD specifications for the particular pedagogical domain of technology-enhanced inquiry learning. Our analysis builds on the extensive research conducted on technology supports for inquiry learning. We focus on a specific technology-enhanced inquiry science environment that has been designed through years of classroom-based research: The Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE). Several important characteristics of the WISE pedagogical approach serve to illuminate our discussion on learning objects and standards. Learning activities are carried out in a social or collaborative context within WISE; they occur primarily in a classroom setting; they are student-centered, and they are concerned with ill-structured problems. These characteristics are not unique to inquiry science projects, but rather represent an approach to pedagogy and curriculum design that is increasingly common within formal education.
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