CAL & RLOs (Computer Aided Learning packages & Reusable Learning Objects)
The impact of reusable learning objects RLOs on the student learning experience
Significant funds have been invested nationally in the development of reusable learning objects (RLOs) accessible to a range of healthcare disciplines through CETL-RLO (Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Reusable Learning Objects), although little is known about student's access to these and their views on the usefulness of these tools. Additionally, whilst there has been exploration of the student learning experience in relation to e-learning in general, and the specific learning outcomes of particular reusable learning tools in certain health topics, research into the accessibility, use and impact of reusable learning objects on the student learning experience has not yet been fully investigated.
The primary aim of this study was to determine how RLOs impact on the student learning experience. The secondary aim was to compare the use of and evaluation of RLOs between medicine and nursing students. Ethical approval for this study was granted by the local Medical School Ethics Committee. An anonymous online questionnaire survey was completed by 233 students (73 medical and 163 nursing) to determine their use of and experience of RLOs. Questionnaire items were adapted from the CETL-RLO evaluation framework and toolkit student questionnaire. Items were mostly closed questions with opportunity for free text responses. Data were downloaded from the online database and analysed using SPSS.
RLOs were more commonly used by nursing students than medical students (76% compared with 14%). The majority of students heard about RLOs from lecturers or module leaders (84%). Overall responses regarding RLOs were positive and 94% of students reported that they would use them again. The vast majority of RLO users reported that RLOs were clear about their purpose or objectives, were easy to navigate and introduced new concepts clearly. The majority of students reported that they would recommend RLOs to their peers, that RLOs complement other teaching and that they would like to see more of them. Evaluation of RLOs found that the most important elements were the ability to access them online, incorporated assessments and exercises, and interactivity. A number of barriers to the use of RLOs were identified including lack of IT competence, technical difficulties and lack of staff awareness of RLOs.
This study demonstrated that RLOs are used and liked amongst students, are important in addressing diverse learning needs and should be available for a wider range of subjects to supplement traditional forms of learning. However, ongoing technical support and guidance is required to address difficulties due to lack of resources or skills. Awareness of RLOs should be raised amongst medical students and also amongst academic staff so that healthcare students may be better signposted towards, and supported in, e-learning.