What is a learning object?

(Modified from The Wisconsin Online Resource Center's Definition for Learning Objects)

Learning objects are a new way of thinking about learning content. Instead of providing all of the material for an entire course or lecture, a learning object provides material for a discrete lesson or sub-lesson within a larger course.

In general, learning objects:

  • Are self-contained – each learning object can be consumed independently
  • Are reusable – a single learning object may potentially be used in multiple contexts for multiple purposes
  • Can be aggregated – learning objects can be grouped into larger collections, allowing for their inclusion within a traditional course structure
  • Are tagged with metadata – every learning object has descriptive information allowing it to be easily found by a search -- which facilitates the object being used by others.
  • Learning objects allow for learning that is:
    • Just enough – if you need only part of a course, you can use the learning objects you need
    • Just in time – learning objects are searchable, you can instantly find and take the content you need
    • Just for you – learning objects allow for easy customization of courses



The best way to understand what a learning object is, and why they matter, is to look at examples. Our projects page show examples of work that our Learning Object development team has developed with our faculty. We are in the process of building a fairly comprehensive list of learning objects developed at 11 northeast colleges as part of our NITLE grant. In the meantime, this list is useful albeit eclectic.
Some Examples


Architectural Virtual Reality Tour (Simulation) (Williams)
Prism Refraction Applet (Simulation)


Pulsar Beacon Animation (Amherst College)
Sodium-Potassium Pump (Middlebury College)


The Valley Of The Shadow (University of Virginia)

Games / Quizes

Flight To Freedom (Bowdoin College)
CBB Plagiarism Self-Test (Bates College)

Other Repositories

LOLA Exchange List of Repositories

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Other Learning Objects Groups

Educational Technology Center, http://academic.bowdoin.edu/etc/

Sample Projects

EPIC, http://www.epic.columbia.edu/
Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/

Sample Projects

Scholarly Technology Group, http://www.stg.brown.edu/

Sample Projects

University of Virginia
Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, http://www.iath.virginia.edu/

Sample Projects

New Media Center, http://nmc.northwestern.edu/

Sample Projects

Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship, http://candles.georgetown.edu/

Center for Media Initiatives, http://www.yale.edu/cmi/

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