Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reload Tool For Creating Learning Objects

Helen Lynch, ACT Toolbox Champion, from Canberra Institute of Technology gave a webinar today on "Learning objects: Create, reuse and deploy for better teaching and learning online!" using the VET Reload Tool and use this with the as LORN and Toolbox Repositories of the vocational sector. This was of interest beyond the VET sector, as universities use the same tools, such as Moodle, which the objects can be used in.

I downloaded the "VET Reload Tool" before the presentation and found to my surprise that I could run the installation program under Linux. The tool itself is written in Java, but has a Microsoft Windows installer, which runs using the "Wine" utility under Linux.

I had to to run the tool was to find the "reload-editor.jar" file in the installed folder and run it with Java. This works fine under Linux, even though it was installed using a Windows install program, as it is just a Java program.

I saved the Moodle book version of my Green ICT Strategies course notes from the ANU course COMP7310, as an IMS content package. Then I tried to open this with Reload. The software was able to unzip the files in the IMS package and put them in a folder, but then reported:

Could not open file:
Error loading schema file

I then installed the unmodified Eclipse-based RELOAD Editor from the JISC project in the UK. This worked fine and was able to open my green ICT course notes. It appears that the modification of the meta-data for the Australian VET version of the tool has made it incompatible with the ANU's Moodle installation.

But while I could run the tool, I was not sure what use it was. Reload seemed to be just a XML editor. You could open the IMS package, navigate the folders in it, add and remove files and edit the XML based metadata. But this is not a WYSIWYG editor. The average educator I thought would find this very user friendly.

Helen's excellent presentation put this in context. Reload is not very exciting tool on its own. But it lets you assemble a lesson from set of documents, such as web pages, WP files, PDF and videos. These are zipped them into a "learning object", along with some metadata. The object can then be put in a repository, or a LMS (such as Moodle) and played by the student.

If the course designer can cope with the primitive interface of the the VET Reload Tool (like a text editor for decades ago), they can create, or modify learning objects with a reasonably quickly and easily. You can enter metadata and insert or remove files, while using your usual tools for creating and editing the content of the individual files.

This tool would have some benefits as it runs on a desktop computer, without needing a server. But for corporate applications at an institution, something like AContent would make more sense. AContent can be run on a server and accessed with a browser, without needing to install software and allows the files to be stored safely on the corporate server.

What was instructive was the high quality of the presentation and the branding of the materials presented, also the way the VET sector has a repository they share for learning objects. This is something the tertiary sector could learn from.

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