Learning object repository

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  • A learning object repository is a kind of digital library. It enables educators to share, manage and use educational resources. A more narrow definition would also require that repositories implement a metadata standard
  • A Learning Object Repository is storing content/assets/resources as well as their metadata record. ( EdTechPost Glossary )

See also:

Standards and Technology

  • Learning object repositories rely often on metadata standards such as Dublin Core or the IMS/IEEE Learning Object Metadata Standard (LOM). Both standards can be criticized from 2 quite opposite angles: They may not all allow to express sufficient meaningful pedagogical information (Kalz et al., 20008) - they may be too complicated to use (see tagging).
  • Usually such repositories a programmed as web application (webserver, database and scripting language) such as the LAMP combo. There are also initiatives to standardize web services associated with a server.
  • More successful initiatives, such as OpenStax, maintained by Rice university and sponsored by various donators maximize simplicity of use. The repository is based on a simple create - share - adapt principle. Authors create webpages with an online tool that then can be assembled into virtual books. In addition, the majority of quality educational online materials may now be OER courses and (truly open) MOOCs. Finally a lot of materials can be found in format and/or topic specif sharing environments such as YouTube (for videos) or thingvierse for 3D objects.


Let us start by quoting some critical remarks from three sources:

“The idea for economies based on the interchange of educational knowledge is not new. More than 25 years ago, Illich (Illich, 1971) introduced the concept of "learning webs," a scheme for transforming the creation and dissemination of knowledge into a problem in which all people play an important role. Illich envisioned a world in which the mass distribution capabilities of the currently extant technology could be used to facilitate access to and sharing of information. Believing that people are capable of being both teachers and learners depending on the circumstances, Illich envisioned an economy that encouraged people to become active teachers and producers of educational knowledge as a result of self-directed learning activities.” ((Fischer and Scharff, 1998).

“Although LORs seem to be a good idea, they are not generally perceived as useful by teachers and students. The most common LOR implementations have been plagued by several shortcomings that limit their usefulness: ignoring or misusing the social aspect of sharing, lack of user-friendliness for indexing new content and focus on archival instead of usage, among others. See Ochoa (2005) for a critique on LORs and possible improvements. A new wave of LORs, such as OpenStax5 (previously Connexions), OER Commons and LRE have proven that these learning infrastructure components, with mature implementation, can be useful and are actually being used in the real world.” (Ochoa & Ternier, 2017).

“The impact of open licensing over the last decade is that hundreds of millions of high-quality educational materials have been made available without charge to the educational community. In some cases, these resources may be reused or incorporated into course materials. This was the type of use envisioned by the developers of learning object repositories and open educational resources. The resources would become a part of a course package; open licensing was used to allow the resources being adapted into course packages and to allow for resale, if necessary. [...] But the growing ubiquity of web access begged the question: why incorporate materials into course packages at all? Why not just send the student to the resource? This would make many more resources available instantly. Some objections present themselves immediately: questions about the persistence of materials were raised, their quality and provenance, as well as privacy and security concerns. But the possibly suggests new models of online learning, and these began to appear with the articulation of E-learning 2.0.” (Downes, 2016).

See also the learning object article. There are many additional issues related to these.


  • It is difficult to de-contextualize / re-contextualize knowledge. If the chunk is too big it can't be adapted to specialized / local needs, if it's too small it will not really be a reusable learning/teaching object on its own.


  • People hate filling in repositories and the only way to get there is either pay someone or force everyone. But the situation can be eased with very good tools that "prefill" contents according to the profile of the person that made or uses a resource. See: Cancore's Learning Object Metadata Editors

Initiatives for developping countries

  • Many decision makers believe that education in the third world could be improved by providing teachers and students with a lot of free materials. Certainly, free and fast access to any information is a good thing. But, DSchneider thinks that such initiatives may hinder the development of a local elite. In order to be a good teacher, a teacher must construct himself knowledge that he teachers, in order to be a good educator he should have control over the knowledge taught. In order to achieve world class, teachers must learn that it is not contents that make the difference, but creative pedagogical scenarios based on creative instructional design models. Divide is not mainly digital, but pedagogical ....

Educational object economies

  • Economies of Educational Knowledge or Educational Object economy: Like many other topics, communities that share educational objects is recurring trend. ... and it never fully works (for reasons we have to develop here / DKS). E.g. James C. Spohrer explains:

“Our vision is of an Information Age economy that efficiently provides learning resources and services to billions of lifelong learners around the globe. By "economy" I mean a community of people adding value to each other's work, improving the quality and availability of educational software.”

End-user modifiability

  • When learning objects are software programs (e.g. microworlds, simulations, tutoring systems etc.) “new requirements may surface, new components may come into existence, and additional design knowledge not contained in the seed may be articulated. During the evolutionary growth phase, the environment developers are not present, making end-user modification (Girgensohn, 1992; Nardi, 1993) a necessity rather than a luxury.” (Fischer & Scharff, 1998).

Software to build your own

There are several kinds of systems:

  • Proprietry/commercial vs. open and/or free
  • Standard metadata (IEEE, Dublin Core vs. custom)
  • Database centered vs. community centered
  • Focused on intra-institutional use - vs. large communities
  • Focused on only one system/technology - vs. several
  • etc.

Repository software

  • DOOR (dead), DOOR Digital Open Object Repository was an Open Source piece of software for creating learning objects repositories. (can be integrated with Moodle).
  • DSPACE is a dublin-core based document repository, but can also be used to store learning objects.
  • Fedora. “This source software gives organizations a flexible service-oriented architecture for managing and delivering their digital content.”
  • EPrints Quote (10/2013): EPrints is already established as the easiest and fastest way to set up repositories of open access research literature, scientific data, theses, reports and multimedia. Not tested, but looks like the easiest solution in 2013 ....

Metadata editors


There exist many alternatives. Some are related to different views about what a learning object should be. For many persons, a learning object could also be just a learning design, i.e. a pedagogical scenario. Technology to catalog such designs could be a wiki.

Often, specific repositories were custom made. There exist on-line services such as Cloudworks. LAMS and CeLS, i.e. learning design technologies also have their own central repository.

Copyright issues

  • A lot of free content is now offered through one of the variants of the "Creative Commons" licence, a non-profit organization that defined flexible copyright licenses for creative works, e.g. authors, artists and educators.



  • Fischer, G. and Scharff, E. (1998). Learning Technologies in Support of Self-Directed Learning. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 98 (4) HTML Hypertext - HTML - PDF.
  • Fischer, G., Henninger, S. R., and Redmiles, D. F. (1991). Cognitive Tools for Locating and Comprehending Software Objects for Reuse, Thirteenth International Conference on Software Engineering (Austin, TX), (pp. 318-328). Los Alamitos, CA: IEEE Computer Society Press. http://www.cs.colorado.edu/~gerhard/papers/se91]
  • Girgensohn, A. (1992). End-User Modifiability in Knowledge-Based Design Environments. (Ph.D. Dissertation ). Dept. Computer Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, U.S.A
  • Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling Society. New York: Harper and Row.
  • Kalz, M.; H. Drachsler, J. van Bruggen, H. Hummel and R. Koper (2008). Wayfinding Services for Open Educational Practices. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET), Vol 3, No 2 (2008). Abstract/PDF
  • Mason, J. & Sutton, S. (2005). Dublin Core Metadata Initiative Education Working Group. Draft Proposal.
  • Monge, Sergio, Ramón Ovelar, and Iker Azpeitia (2008). Repository 2.0: Social Dynamics to Support Community Building in Learning Object Repositories, Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects, 4. PDF
  • Nardi, B. A. (1993). A Small Matter of Programming. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  • Ochoa, X. (2005). Learning object repositories are useful, but are they usable?. In N. Guimarães, & P. Isaías (Eds.), Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference on Applied Computing (pp. 138–144). Algarve, Portugal.
  • Ochoa X., Ternier S. (2017) Technical Learning Infrastructure, Interoperability and Standards. In: Duval E., Sharples M., Sutherland R. (eds) Technology Enhanced Learning. Springer, Cham
  • Resnick, M. (1996). Distributed Constructionism. Proc. International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Chicago, IL.
  • Spohrer Jim, Tamara Summer & Simon Buckingham Shum (1998). Educational Authoring Tools and the Educational Object Economy: Introduction to this Special Issue from the East/West Group. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 98 (10). [www-jime.open.ac.uk/98/10 HTML Hypertext] - HTML - PDF
  • The Educational Object Economy Project: An Interview with James Spohrer by James L. Morrison and James C. Spohrer. HTML

Note: The Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects (open access) has lots of articles on learning objects and learning object repository problems...