RLOs and Youtube

Posted on July 1, 2012


The fancy name is Reusable Learning Object (RLO). Instructors know them as any document, presentation, video or any other instructional content they can use again – perhaps even in a different class. A reading in a US History class might be on the constitution. The teacher may use that same reading again in their Constitution class. Much of Algebra II contains material that could be taken right out of Algebra I.  The problem comes when the learning object contains non-needed content. You wouldn’t hand a US History student a book on the constitution and say find the section on Marbury vs. Madison. An Algebra II teacher wouldn’t say “There’s a great slope problem in the Algebra 1 book” and give every student a Algebra 1 book.

Where does Youtube come in? There is a lot of Youtube content used in education. But many times, the content of the video covers more material than you want to show or have the student watch. I know I’ve had videos paused to start at the right time ignoring the content previous. I would write in a lesson plan, “Start video at 3:14” This is where time-coding can help make a youtube video an effective RLO. What you do is add some text to the youtube URL and the execution of the link will start the video at the point you have chosen.

Changing the URL

There is a (albeit roughly produced) explanation of a RLO at this Youtube link:


I want to start it at the 27 second mark because that is where the explanation starts.

So I add &t=0m27s to the youtube URL. The additional text means:



My new link is: “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpiqVPxHOmQ&t=0m27s

Click on the above link and the video should start at 27 seconds.

If you don’t like messing with URLs, then you can use youtubetime.com and it will give you the needed URL.


The above example was for providing or using a link to get to the youtube site. Embedding is a little bit trickier as different sites will adjust your embed code for their site. Using the above format didn’t work. Digital Media blogger Mel Alcaro says to add a #start=27 where 27 is the number of seconds for embedding. While the image doesn’t show the video starting at 27 seconds, when you click the play button, it will move to the 27 second mark.

Boom. The video starts where I want it to start.

Currently, I’m working with a Subject Matter Expert (SME) on preparing to shoot an interview with the SME and another content expert. I know the SME will want to use different parts of the interview for different training and courses. In preparing the content questions, we will want to chuck the video into discrete sections. We can later edit the video into separate sections, but we can also use the entire video and provide time coded links to learners depending upon the content. What time coding doesn’t give us is a stopping point. The learner will have to be informed of where they can stop the video if there is content that appears after that they don’t need to view.

What instructors at all levels are doing is making learning objects accessible outside of the original specific use. Making them “reusable” is of benefit to the instructor and the learner.