Publication Details

Wills, S. Rethinking reusability: implications from a longitudinal study of online role play in Australian higher education. Education 2011-2021 Summit: Global challenges and perspectives of blended and distance learning, Sydney, 15-18 Feb 2011. 11p.


In a study about designing “reusable e-learning activities”, the author used online role play as a containable, but pedagogically rich, sample. 53 online role plays in Australian higher education were identified and tracked between 1990 and 2006 (Wills, 2010). As a result of interviews and surveys, it was calculated that 45 role plays were a reuse of another role play, demonstrating that the topic of reusability is an important one in higher education.

However, there were only eight instances of reuse of the same role play itself (18%). Predictably these eight instances were a reuse within the same discipline. Meanwhile, 82% of the instances were a reuse of another’s role play design. This high percentage confirms the importance of research about learning designs to guide and underpin programs for sharing good teaching practice.

The eight instances of reuse of the same role play involved four role plays. These four were analyzed in more detail via case study methodology, documenting their full history of reuse. The histories raised questions about what constituted instances of reuse. These nuances of the term “reusability” are explored further in this paper.

The nuances warrant attention when designing e-learning activities to be Reusable Learning Objects and they particularly apply to those RLOs that involve active, authentic and collaborative learning such as online role plays. Wills, Leigh & Ip (2010) provides a fuller guide to designing role-based e-learning.


130306 Educational Technology and Computing