How to Create Optimal Learning Experiences with a Learning Design Framework

What drives development of new pedagogy, a new way of teaching? Changes in society, student expectations, and technology are motivating innovative university and college professors and instructors to re-think pedagogy and teaching methods. Contact North, Ontario’s Online Learning Portal for Faculty & Instructors


This article is a revised version of an earlier post published on January 22. This is the first in a three-part series about Learning Design for Educators. This first post introduces the concept of learning design and a framework that educators can use to create optimal learning for students. The framework encompasses three sets of resources, content sourcesweb-collaboration and human resources. We introduce here a new approach to teaching, one that leverages resources to create learning experiences for students—a somewhat different approach from traditional instructional strategies.

Designing Learning Experiences versus Teaching
As the opening quote suggests—it’s society’s changing values and expectations, influenced heavily by advancements in technology, that are pressuring educators to change and adapt instructional practices. It may be that a different approach is needed; one that shifts perspective on how teaching is done—where an educator is not a ‘teacher’ in the sense of the traditional methods associated with it, but uses tools, resources, and different methods to achieve the same desired outcomes. Much has been written about the changing role of the teacher in today’s digital age, which often suggests that the teacher’s role has expanded—which it has, but it should not translate to more work for educators. The article at Contact North, A New Pedagogy is Emerging…And Online Learning is a Key Contributing Factor outlines reasons for new methods, what is needed to incorporate such methods, and outlines key elements to include in the alternative strategies. What the Learning Design Framework provides is a visual tool that highlights resources within three dimensions that educators can leverage to create learning experiences for students that are learning and working in a networked environment.

The Learning Design Framework
Designing effective learning experiences in a networked society involves leveraging three sets of resources, 1) content sources, 2) web-collaboration resources, and 3) human resources.

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Learning Design Framework for Educators, by Online Learning Insights

1) Content Sources
There is superabundance of resources readily accessible on the web; rich and varied resources that are not limited to open education resources. Content sources for education are web pages or sites hosted and maintained by education institutions, organizations (i.e. Wikipedia), governments, and associations. Yet the resources cannot stand alone; young learners and post-secondary students require a skilled educator to create and select existing resources, provide context to make learning meaningful. One of the challenges for undergraduate students is managing information and making sense of content sources in order to extract knowledge; to analyze, evaluate and synthesize sources. Content resources are one dimension of creating learning experiences, for the most part content resources are static, though more malleable than a textbook.

2) Web-Collaboration Resources
Another dimension to designing learning is making it dynamic by using applications and tools on the web that allow learners to interact, share and construct. Web collaboration platforms, also known as Web 2.0 tools, are sites on the web that are not static but facilitate interactivity, collaboration—connecting learners to others and allowing learners to share, communicate, and work on creating content together. The result is that meaningful learning occurs during this process of collaboration. Social platforms are also included in this dimension given the growing emphasis on social media and its role in everyday life. The boundaries between social media use in work, personal life and learning spaces, are blurring and educators that integrate social media in learning environments are in a better position to connect with learners and increase opportunities for meaningful learning.

3) Human Resources
High school and under graduate students need to learn how-to-learn. Individuals with advanced education already know-what-they-don’t-know, and can create their own learning path to learn an unfamiliar topic, typically done by accessing resources [human, content, etc.] as needed. This human element, the third dimension is critical for students without an advanced education. The majority are not equipped (yet), to know what resources to draw upon, where to find them, and how to discern what is accurate and worthy. The full responsibility of teaching though, does not need to rest with just one teacher. The educator that can leverage the human resources available i.e. teaching assistants, tutors, peers, takes pressure off him or herself and creates diverse and optimal learning for students. It’s very likely that a new category of learner support will emerge in the future—learning support specialists, which Tony Bates mentions in his article, 2020 Vision: Outlook for online learning in 2014 and beyond.

The Learning Design Framework is a starting point for educators. It’s not intended to be a prescriptive formula, but a tool to guide learning design, and help frame discussions and ideas for creating effective learning experiences for students.

Part two of this series: Why Educators Needs to Know Learning Theory

Further Reading

Image Credit:  “Learn” by roger.karlsson, Flickr

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