Friday, December 19, 2008

Learning resources landscape

Learning resources come in all colours and shapes, that is for sure. They also come from all kinds of different places; repositories, portals, the web.... For a recent presentation and paper, I created this diagram to better depict the learning resources landscape. As I later had to remove this part from the paper to save place, I post it here.

Teachers use a plethora of ways to discover educational content online. Harvey et al. (2006) report on search strategies of 4500 US faculty members where Google-like searches are by far the most prominent (81%), second most important being own personal Collections of resources and also “portals” that provide links to disciplinary topics (55%). In our user group comprised of 45 language and science teachers in K-12 education, such diversity of strategies was also discovered: one third use national and regional educational repositories as their primary source of educational content, 28% use search engines, 21% said they create their own content, 7% use content from schoolbook publishers and 12% reported all of the above (Vuorikari, 2008a).

These search strategies also give an indication of the different types of resources that teachers use. Figure 1 illustrates a number of different sources of content that teachers use. First of all, on the horizontal axis we distinguish between platforms that have institutional support and the ones that are rather teachers’ community driven sources. On the vertical axis we distinguish between teacher-generated content and “other sources”. The latter encompasses a large number of providers from educational portals and repositories, schoolbook publishers to educational and non-educational sites created by a number of private and public stakeholders. This “other sources” category is essentially as large as a teacher’s pedagogical imagination is in taking advantage of the resources on the Internet.

This diagram allows us to draw a landscape for educational resources. In the upper left corner of the diagram, there are examples of institutional Learning Object Repositories (LOR), such as the ones managed by Educational Authorities (e.g. Learning Resource Exchange for schools and members of EdReNe) and other repositories that make educational content available. On the lower left corner we place initiatives like MIT OCW which is an institutional repository that makes available teacher-generated content. The lower right corner represents teacher-generated content in a community-driven environment (e.g., LeMill), whereas the upper right hand corner represents content that is found on the Internet from various sources and saved in community-driven environments like None of these boundaries are fixed and there are many in-between-models (e.g., LOR with both user-generated content and institutional ones). Our data sets for this study, which are presented in Table 1, cover a wide area of Figure 1. For learning resources we use Wiley’s (2002) definition of learning object as “any digital resources that can be reused to support learning”, as they vary greatly in granularity and other qualities.

Our evidence finding focuses on teachers in K-12 education in a European multilingual context. In the Europe Union area, where 497 million people (Eurostats) live from diverse ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, multilinguality has an important role (Council of Europe, 2007). There are 23 EU official languages, 3 alphabets, and some 60 other languages are part of the EU heritage and spoken in specific regions or by specific groups (COM, 2008). Multilinguality can be defined as a situation where several languages are spoken within a certain geographical area, as well as the ability of a person to master multiple languages. 56% of EU citizens say that they are able to hold a conversation in one language apart from their mother tongue, and 28% in at least two languages. English remains the most widely spoken foreign language throughout Europe (38%), second and third place is French (14%) and German (14%), whereas 6% have foreign language expertise in Spanish and Russian respectively. Over two-third say that they language lessons at school was the way they have learned foreign languages (COM, 2006).


Harley, D., Henke, J., Lawrence, S., Miller, I., Perciali, I., and Nasatir, D. (2006). Use and Users of Digital Resources: A Focus on Undergraduate Education in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Available from

Vuorikari, R. (2008a). A case study on teachers' use of social tagging tools to create collections of resources - and how to consolidate them. In Wild, F., Kalz, M., Palmer, M (Eds) Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Mashup Personal Learning Environments. Available from

Wiley, D. (2002). The Instructional Use of Learning Objects. Online at:

COM(2006). Europeans and their languages. Special Eurobarometer, European Commission.

COM(2008). 566 final. Multilingualism: an asset for Europe and a shared commitment, European Commission.

Council of Europe (2007). Un cardre Européen commun de référence pour les langues : apprendre, enseigner, évaluer. Division des Politiques Linguistiques, Strasbourg: France.

No comments: