Publication Details

This book chapter was originally published as Wills, S and McDougall, A, Reusability of Online Role Play: Learning Objects or Learning Designs?, in Handbook of Research on Learning Design and Learning Objects: Issues, Applications and Technologies IDEA Group, 2009.


This study tracks the uptake of online role play in Australia from 1990 to 2006 and the affordances to its uptake. It examines reusability, as one affordance, from the perspective of two often polarized constructs: Learning Object and Learning Design. The study treats “reuse” on two levels: reuse of an existing online role play and reuse of an online role play as the model for another role play. In keeping with terminology that has come into recent use, we propose that the first level implies the online role play is used as a Learning Object and the second level implies the online role play is used as a Learning Design. Thirty six role plays were identified in Australian universities of which 80% were reuse of a Learning Design. Only three examples of role play as Learning Object were found indicating that so far Learning Design is the more useful concept in understanding reusability in universities. Other affordances to uptake of role play were also tracked. The contribution of Educational Developers far outweighed that of colleagues, conferences, journals and engines. The results have implications for the work practices of Educational Developers and for managers of Learning Object Repositories.