Learning Objects: definitions and characteristics

Learning Objects

Characteristics of Learning Objects


A compelling reason for using LOs is their potential to be re-used.

Even if originally conceived for a specific context, material can be reused when:

  • it can then be re-used in a different context;
  • a large number of people have access to this material;
  • it is possible to use it independently from the technological choices (software rights, platforms etc.) made by the author;
  • it is possible to change it easily so that it can be updated and adapted to different contexts.

What are the characteristics which a LO must have in order that it can be termed reusable?

  • Assemblability
  • Accessibility
  • Granularity
  • Adaptability
  • Self-consistency
  • Interoperability, Portability, Compatibility
  • Flexibility
  • Durability


An LO is an object which can be used together with other LOs to build different learning paths in different contexts.



In order to make use of the material it is necessary to know that it exists. In a library a book is catalogued, and found, thanks to the bibliographical information which accompanies it.  So a learning object needs to be traceable by means of the information which relates to its characteristics (title, author, history, format, pedagogical characteristics ...). These indicators are found in the metadata, that is descriptions relating to the contents which facilitate the research and allow the creation of a system of repositories where each object can be found.


The ability of a LO to be divided in elation to its size.

Granularity" and context are linked in a way which is inversely related to proportion/size. The more an LO is put into context, the less it can be divided.  Conversely, the "smaller" the LO is, the less important the context becomes.

The potential to divide and to reuse an LO are linked. Where the potential to be divided is reduced an LO can generally only be reused in different contexts with difficulty. On the other hand, an LO which can be divided easily  can, as a consequence, be used in several contexts, though it does not happen automatically. It would need the intervention of a teacher to create the alternate context. There is, after all, a limit to LO reusability.


An LO must be easily changed in order to be adapted to a new context. In order to do this the following must occur:

  • availability of the source (the potential of changing it)
  • a copyleft licence (the right to change it)
  • simplicilty of the object (one of the conditions being that the change would be cost-effective)


A LO should be able to be used in its own right, in other words it should not be part of an organised sequence of LOs. It should also be 'complete' from a didactic point of view and it should achieve the objectives established by the content producer. This implies, among other things, that one LO should not refer specifically to another LO, and also it should not contain links that lead out of the LO itself.


An LO should be able to be used with any operating system and should be able to be visualised by the user with any browser.

Also the LOs should be able to 'speak to' different didactic platforms in order to be able to communicate information relating to the progress of the student as they progress along their learning path. 


Flexibility, in the context of LOs, is used in two slightly differently senses:

  1. material which is prepared to be used in different contexts is more flexible and easier to reuse than material prepared for a specific context, and
  2. in a strictly technological sense the material is flexible if it can be used with a normal browser, any operating system and does not need any specific software or plug-in to be visualised or changed.


Durability concerns the ability to adapt to future technological changes, such as the continuous evolution of the platforms.