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4 Learning design

Described image
Figure 5 Just as sheet music enables others to reproduce a tune, learning design helps educators to reproduce a successful lesson.

Throughout this course, you have seen that designing an online experience for learners is not the same as other forms of teaching. Learning design provides a way of going about this systematically. Mor and Craft (2012) define learning design as ‘the act of devising new practices, plans of activity, resources and tools aimed at achieving particular educational aims in a given situation’ (p. 86).

Learning design is part of any educator’s practice. It involves preparing for teaching/training sessions as well as creating learning materials, activities and assessments. Learning design is so core to what educators do, that it is often taken for granted. It is assumed that it ‘just happens’. In other words, design is so embedded in educators’ practice that it tends to be implicit. It is rarely articulated formally or externalised for others, apart from at a relatively superficial level in the module syllabus or lesson plan.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in trying to understand educators’ design processes better and make them more explicit. There are a number of reasons for this, but three are particularly worth noting.

  1. Reviewing and adjusting: In order to ensure the quality and robustness of educational innovations, they need to be reviewed from various perspectives – technological, pedagogical and others. The sooner the innovations are reviewed, the easier it is to make any necessary adjustments. Sharing and discussing innovations at the design phase can avoid costly mistakes at later stages of production.
  2. Sharing the development process: By making the design process explicit, it can be easily shared with others, which means good practice can be transferred.
  3. Providing guidance: The variety and complexity of resources and technologies available means that teachers and other education practitioners need clear guidance to help them find relevant tools and resources, as well as support in incorporating these into the learning activities they are creating.

Note that the term ‘learning design’ is still being defined and negotiated. It overlaps to some extent with other terms, such as ‘instructional design’, ‘curriculum design’ and ‘module design’. Mor and Craft’s definition represents one possible interpretation, and their paper discusses alternative definitions proposed by others.

Activity 4 Learning design

Timing: Allow about 40 minutes

Visit The Open University’s Learning Design Resources [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Browse the guides, posters and tools available on the site, and look in more detail at ones that interest you.

Make notes about resources you could use in your own work and how you think you might do this. For example, you could encourage others to use a certain resource, plan a workshop activity or use the resources as a guide to your own design work.

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Many good ideas and best practice resources are available online for educators to use. This activity helps you to start thinking about the kinds of resources you might look for and how these could be altered to fit teaching needs at your institution.