6 Features of Learning Objects

Learning objects (LOs) are digital entities that are authentic and based on real-world events. They are integrated within an eLearning course, in response and direct correlation to the learning objectives. They help elaborate the teaching and learning experiences of all course participants. In this article, we’ll uncover the six characteristics of learning objects and examples of them, used in an eLearning course.

By now, as instructional designers and eLearning developers, you may have access to a plethora of reusable learning materials. These are also known as knowledge objects or nuggets. We call them “reusable” because they can easily be used in some other course, without any issues.

Learning objects are essentially like pre-developed learning materials that are self-contained and can easily be used in your eLearning programs. These objects can also be aggregated to produce lengthier learning experiences.

The goal is to use LO’s in your course in order to minimize the time needed to complete course development.

It’s All in the Metadata

A distinguishing feature of an LO is the incorporation of metadata within it. Metadata is a description of the LO that helps designers determine how and where to use the LO.

In addition, an LO is a brief piece of multimedia that is between 2 and 15 minutes in length. The metadata of the LO includes the objective of the LO: It states the purpose of the LO and where it can be used. It also includes a list of prerequisites that state a list of skills that the learner must possess before attempting the LO.

A description of the topic is included and its category is explained clearly, in order to describe the context in which the LO is to be used. An interactivity model is also supplied, that explains to the user how to interact with the LO, to aid in the learning process.

Finally, the LO metadata describes the minimum technology requirements, for example, Flash Player needed, etc.


Learning Objects are also known by many other names, like Knowledge Objects, Assets, Content Objects, Educational Objects, Reusable information objects, Reusable learning objects, Unit of learning, and many more.

Distinguishing Learning Objects and Media Assets

When you go through these and all the other resources at your disposal and evaluate a learning object, you will find six common features that will help you identify the LO from other generic multimedia objects.

There are several multimedia examples of learning objectives available on the Internet that you need to examine well before you start integrating them into your eLearning programs. We are all familiar with multimedia objects such as video, illustrated images, audio, eBooks, photos, slides, mental maps, concept maps, etc.

The Six Characteristics of Learning Objects

So, what are these six distinguishing characteristics of learning objects? Let’s have a look:

· Interoperability: Learning objects can be used in a variety of software suites, across platforms (Mac, PC)

· Reusability: The ability a well-designed Learning Object has to fit a multitude of scenarios and circumstances

· Manageability: Objects need to be able to be tracked and updated

· Flexibility: Learning Objects must be adaptable to serve the needs of learners and bring them closer to achieving their learning objectives

· Accessibility: This distinguishing factor relates to the fact that objects must be online, searchable and well categorized to be true Learning Objects

· Durability: Within reason, Learning Objects must stand the test of time with regards to their content and their delivery mechanism

· Scalability: It’s important for Learning Objects to be neither narrow in focus, nor too large to be incorporated along with other objects, so designing with scalability in mind is a must.

Next time you create a learning object of your own, make sure it encompasses the above six features. Create LOs that are granular, modular and available as single units that are ready to be integrated into any eLearning program, seamlessly.

You should also strive to create LOs that are independent, yet can easily connect with other elements or indeed, other LOs. This is possible when you create learning objects that offer varying degrees of challenge.

For example, an exercise on leadership can easily be re-used in management-related eLearning programs aimed at team development.


Learning objects have gained impressive popularity over the past few years. This is in part because of their usefulness and compliance with local education and training curricula. The North Carolina Learning Objects Repository  is a good reference point to use for your eLearning training programs.

There are several other LO repositories that can be referred to when creating an eLearning program:

· Connexions
Wisconsin Online Learning Object Project
Apple Learning Interchange

We hope that the resources provided in this article will aid you in your research and selection or creation of LOs for your own eLearning programs.

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