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DigiCULT, as a support measure within the
Information Society Technologies (IST) Programme,
provides a technology watch mechanism for the
cultural and scientific heritage sector. Backed by
a network of peer experts, the project monitors,
discusses and analyses existing and emerging tech-
nologies likely to bring benefits to the sector.
To promote the results and encourage early
take-up of relevant technologies, DigiCULT has
put in place a rigorous publication agenda of seven
Thematic Issues, three in-depth Technology Watch
Reports, as well as the DigiCULT.Info e-journal,
pushed to a growing database of interested persons
and organisations on a regular basis. All DigiCULT
products can be downloaded from the project
Website as they become
available.The opportunity to subscribe to
DigiCULT.Info is also found here.
While the DigiCULT Technology Watch Reports
address primarily technological issues, the Thematic
Issues focus more on the organisational, policy and
economic aspects of the technologies under con-
sideration.They are based on the expert round
tables organised by the DigiCULT Forum secretariat.
In addition to the Forum discussion, they provide
opinions of other experts in the form of articles and
interviews, case studies, short descriptions of related
projects, together with a selection of relevant
This fourth Thematic Issue concentrates on the
question of how the heritage sector might benefit
from engaging in the production and provision of
a new breed of learning material, called Learning
Objects. Such objects are highly interoperable and
reusable modular building blocks for e-learning
content based on widely shared specifications or
already accredited standards (e.g. for metadata and
content packaging). It is also important to note that
learning objects are not only `chunks' of content
(e.g. digitised images with descriptive metadata),
but may also include interactive elements such as
simulations, tools, communicative components,
and assessments.
There are different levels at which heritage
institutions might engage in the development of
e-learning opportunities based on the concept of
learning objects.They can supply resources for
learning objects (e.g. digitised artefacts from their
collections), develop the objects themselves in the
framework of a learning programme, or even run
a virtual learning environment with a stock of
learning objects, perhaps shared with other
institutions. However, one of the major obstacles
to achieving a stronger involvement of heritage
institutions in the provision of learning objects is
that they traditionally concentrate on informal
learning styles. Some ideas related to the concept of
learning objects might be rather alien to them, such
as, for example, that such objects should be designed
to achieve a certain narrow learning object, and may
also contain an assessment mechanism to determine
success against that objective.
This may also in part explain the fact that,
although extensive efforts have been put into
both strengthening e-learning and fostering access
to digital heritage, these efforts remain somewhat
isolated from each other.
As part of their mission,
heritage institutions usually have the goal of
supporting educational activities through providing
access to their resources. However, these resources
are most often presented only as collection objects,
deemed to be useful for `informal' learning in some
way or other (i.e. usually not further specified).
In order to become the high-quality, standardised
learning objects necessary in education and life-long
DigiCULT 5
By Guntram Geser
cf. Iconex Learning Objects
Repository, http://www.
One indicator for this is the
very limited involvement of
heritage institutions in the Fifth
RTD Framework Programme's
projects in the area of
technology enhanced learning.
An overview of these 90-odd
projects is provided in
European Commission (2003):
Technology enhanced learning
Project fact sheets.Third
updated and enlarged edition,
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