#LTHEchat185: Does learning need to be designed and what roles are involved in learning design?

Guest hosts Sandra Huskinson @fieryred1 and Matt Cornnock @mattcornnock

As Covid-19 prompts further moves towards online learning, in this chat we endeavour to debate, investigate and identify what we mean by learning design and how it can help educators repurpose their teaching in challenging times.

Learning designers collaborate with educators to create activities that enable students to meet learning outcomes. With many educators having to radically redesign their approach to courses for online, blended, hybrid or dual teaching, navigating the decisions about what, how and why to teach a particular way can be challenging if you don’t have access to expertise in online instructional design. In June of this year following a tweet by Leonard Houx @leonardhoux, Neil Mosley @neilmosley5 posted a tweet about learning designers:

“For a long time HEIs have not understood these roles and they were too few… as Leonard says, it’s a highly skilled role and it’s a shame that the sector has woken up to the need of learning/instructional designers when there’s too few with the skills and experience to go round.”

This observation sparked a discussion on Twitter and between Matt and I about what we thought learning design is, whose role learning design sits with and what skills and knowledge such roles require. Matt had already been blogging about this topic particularly the role of learning technologists as learning designers.

Learning Design, in the formal sense, attempts to describe a sequence of learning and teaching activities, usually then applied to a specific cohort to provide a scaffold for learning (Dalziel, et al., 2016). This will be influenced by many factors, including the educator’s predisposition towards certain pedagogies, discipline pedagogy and the mode of teaching expected (online, face-to-face, blended). We therefore champion collaboration with learning designers, learning technologists or educational advisers, not to implement an online equivalent, but to challenge thinking and design learning and teaching activities that will enable students to progress across modes.

In the current situation, going back to basics, learning design is essentially planning what the educator and learner are doing and what resources are required at each point in a learning process. This can be designed at each “level of granularity” of the programme, module, session and activity level (Dalziel, et al., 2016), and adopting departmental approaches can provide coherence and scalability of learning designs.

This #LTHEchat will challenge you to think about how learning design approaches apply in your own context, identify those who play a role in learning design and reflect on the transferability of learning designs across online and offline spaces.

Additional resources

To get you thinking about the role of learning technologists, The Association of Learning Technology published a series on “What makes a Learning Technologist?” (Daniel Scott, Simon Thomson, Chris Melia).

Learning design: where do we go from here? Dalziel 2016

Young, C. and Perović, N. (2016) Rapid and Creative Course Design: As Easy as ABC? Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 228, 390-395 https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/abc-ld/

Active Blended Learning https://www.northampton.ac.uk/ilt/current-projects/defining-abl/

Sandra Huskinson has held a variety of roles including medical artist, design manager and now works part-time for Loughborough University as an Enhanced Learning Officer whilst work as a freelance consultant providing elearning and multimedia consultancy for a variety of organisations.  https://fieryred.co.uk/

Matt Cornock leads the online CPD programme at STEM Learning, providing professional development for teachers on FutureLearn. Matt has previously worked in higher education and is a Senior Certified Member of ALT, with 15 years experience supporting academic colleagues with learning technologies, blended learning design and evaluation of learning and teaching. (mattcornock.co.uk)

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