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The Reusability Paradox

Module by: David Wiley. E-mail the author

Summary: A content module's stand-alone pedagogical effectiveness is inversely proportional to its reusability.

The Reusability Paradox

Because humans make meaning by connecting new information to that which they already know, the meaningfulness of educational content is a function of its context. As the module's context is further elaborated and made more explicit, a learner working with the module has an easier time understanding how this information relates to what they already know. The more context a learning object has, the more (and the more easily) a learner can learn from it.

To an instructional designer, learning object "reuse" means placing a learning object in a context other than that for which it was designed. The fit of learning objects into these new contexts depends on the extent to which the learning object's internals contain explicit statements of context. For example, statements within a learning object like "as you will recall from the last module..." make it very difficult to reuse the learning object in a context other than that for which it was designed. To make learning objects maximally reusable, learning objects should contain as little context as possible.

Figure 1: The inverse relationship between reusability and pedagogical effectiveness.
The Reusability Paradox
The Reusability Paradox (figure.gif)

It turns out that reusability and pedagogical effectiveness are completely orthogonal to each other. Therefore, pedagogical effectiveness and potential for reuse are completely at odds with one another, unless the end user is permitted to edit the learning object. The application of an open license to a learning object resolves the paradox.

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