Edinburgh spin-off develops central store for intellectual assets

July 11, 2003

An Edinburgh University spin-off wants to help universities and colleges better manage "learning objects" such as academics' lecture notes, slides, reading lists and lab handouts because they are intellectual assets worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, writes Olga Wojtas.

Intrallect, which markets management systems for e-learning, said learning objects were tangible assets that should be pooled centrally.

Chief executive Charles Duncan said: "They are a major asset of any university or college, and it is absolutely vital that they be managed as carefully as other assets such as property, computers or intellectual property."

Individual academics knew what learning objects they had and how these could be used, but did not share them with colleagues so they could be reused effectively, he said.

"If a staff member leaves, they may take that valuable learning object with them and an intellectual asset is lost to the university."

Intrallect developed Learning Object Management Systems (Loms) to bring the resources into a secure central store through which they could be shared.

It said this would reduce the workload on staff and improve their teaching by giving them access to new resources. Colleagues in the same department could take over courses relatively easily, and staff in other disciplines could use material as models of good practice.

Intrallect said institutions could also generate funds by repackaging learning objects for continuous professional development, distance learning or franchised courses overseas.

Intrallect said that a Loms required a little extra effort in describing each object when it was contributed, similar to cataloguing a book or journal in the library. But if all learning objects were centrally stored, they could be safely backed up and easily found.

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