What is a Real World Learning Object?

“Many textures of balls” by Christina Vlinder

What was the last Thing or Place you introduced your students too?

It must have been important or you wouldn’t have gone to the effort of showing them, right?

Now you can easily attach your digital content to that specific Thing or Place so your content is linked to the Real World. Now you can turn these Things or Places into interactive Real World Learning Objects.

Read to the bottom to find out more about our “2 week teacher’s challenge” where we’ll guide you through getting started creating your own.
“I can laugh and learn, I can” by cogdog

A Learning Object is a collection of “content items, practice items and assessment items” and the term is credited to Wayne Hodgins and the related 1994 IEEE Working Group.

The IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee defines a Learning Object as “any entity, digital or non-digital, that may be used for learning, education or training” — but the focus is often on the digital side.

Real World Learning Objects (RWLO — pronounced “ro-lo” for short) are very similar, but they are different in one key aspect. RWLOs include BOTH digital and non-digital elements integrated into one single experience.

RWLOs are real world Things or Places seen through a Digital Lens which provides relevant learning content.

The Campus Guide example

A classic example is a Campus Guide. Normally there’s the “map” and then there’s the physical “campus”. You are expected to blend these two distinct items in your mind in order to create your own wayfinding plan.

When recreated as a RWLO the “map” is now overlaid onto the real world “campus” making a new type of hybrid wayfinding experience that involves both the digital and the physical.

This modern Mixed Reality forces us to re-evaluate Korzybski’s famous quote “the map is not the territory”. These new hybrid RWLOs deliver all the details and reality of the “territory” plus all the comprehension benefits of the “map”.

With RWLOs we can even update Valery’s poetic comment “Everything simple is false. Everything which is complex is unusable”. Now this can be simplified down to “Everything is usable*”

*Assuming educators/instructional designers have been given the chance to create the right learning content and to link it to the right Things or Places.

Here’s a quick example of just how “friction free” this sort of experience can be using Mixed Reality built upon the modern web.

How will people find it?

Just like with Learning Objects, there’s no point in creating RWLOs if people can’t find and use them. This is the main reason Learning Objects include structured metadata — in order to make them findable.

But if you implement RWLOs using the modern web, you can share them with a single web link so you can distribute them easily. A link that works in the browser you already have in your pocket or desktop and all without any downloads or installs.

Once you open that link you can see your digital content overlaid onto the things and places around you. Now you can use the magic window in your pocket to give yourself magic powers. Look at a place or thing and then simply start interacting to learn all about it. Start with an introduction or dive as deeply as the content will allow.

“Cherry picking” by Shao Lim

And best of all, because it’s the web you can re-use the existing Learning Objects you already have!

What about assessments?

Like Learning Objects, RWLOs can contain assessment items too. By literally interacting with the real world thing or place, your competency can automatically be assessed. Taking the Campus Guide example from above and adding an assessment component can give us a different type of experience.

“Juggling” by bluefade

Treasure Hunts

One example is a Treasure Hunt, where you are given a goal of getting to a certain location within a certain time. Once you arrive, your navigation competency is logged and your next goal is unlocked. At each point you can add as much interactivity or supporting information as you like and by tying this to your RWLOs you can generate a detailed audit trail of the individual Learner Outcomes — all mapped to the real world.

“Treasure” by kmdoncaster

Virtual Field Trips

Yet another example is the Virtual Field Trip. Just like the Treasure Hunt, this takes the general idea of a Campus Map and extends it with a set of assessment goals.

Here, a remote location is represented in your local space and you can look around as if you had teleported there. Using 360° photos and video as an alternative to a live view of the real world can be great for when people are elsewhere.


Perhaps they’re considering visiting and you want to show them it’s worth the trip. Or perhaps you’re showing them somewhere that’s dangerous or impractical to access (e.g. a working mine, Antarctica, etc.).

These locations can easily be captured with 360° cameras and you can simply overlay your digital content, practice and assessment items on top. Anything from complex 3D objects through to simple images, videos and your existing web content.

Then you can link these together with animations and interactivity to design your own interaction model.

Make the world interactive using the modern web

The modern web supports sensors and cameras so now you can link it to the real world!

“Magic” by bohman

Using the modern web gives you a whole new power. By moving your finger, your arm or your body you can easily place images, videos and 3D objects anywhere in the world. People can then literally see them “in-situ” where you left them. You can position your content exactly “where” and “how” you want. Now you can make the world interactive and wrap it in your digital content.

The modern web gives you the power to create these interactive 360° photos or videos and Mixed Reality (Virtual or Augmented Reality — VR or AR).

With the right tools you don’t have to worry about the technical details if you don’t want to. You can just focus on the magic and your learning outcomes.

Or, if you do code then you can extend this with great open source libraries.

Create onsite vs offsite experiences

Setup special content that “automagically” appears when people are within a specific “active area”, or if they’re further away you can show them how to get to where you want. The creative options are endless.

Join our “2 week teacher’s challenge” now

Just sign up for a 14 day free trial now and then email support AT awe.media and we’ll guide you through creating your own Real World Learning Objects. If you create at least one Real World Learning Object a day for your first 2 weeks then we’ll give you an activated awe app for free for 12 months. Just think of all the things you can create.

“Augmented Web Experiences” by awe.media

If you want a quick preview, then check out this guide that shows you how easy it is to place your virtual content in the real world. This example shows Location based content. From September 2017 you will also be able to use Computer Vision to track images too.

You might also be interested in my post on “Blending Mixed Reality with Learning”.

Also checkout my recent post about our latest UX innovation, and how we’re “Taking the friction out of Mixed Reality (VR & AR)”.

Want to know if this also works on iOS Safari? Checkout my recent post about Apple’s announcement.