Common issues in learning design

Teachers may use different models or refer to different individual processes for designing and developing online courses. Whichever learning design approach you use, it will focus your attention on the decisions that have to be made.

In developing an online course, you will need to make decisions about:

  • The tasks that will direct learners' activity
  • The resources available to learners
  • How learners will demonstrate their learning (assessment)
  • The learning environment.

These decisions will be informed by what you know about:

  • The learning outcomes of the course
  • The context of your course
  • Your learners
  • The technologies available to you and your learners.

Design rarely happens in a linear fashion. It is likely that your design for a course will emerge as you make these key decisions.

In the following video, Professor Peggy A. Ertmer, Professor of Learning Design and Technology at Purdue University, explains her thought processes as she plans for an online learning course.

In the following interview, Professor Peggy A. Ertmer, Professor of Learning Design and Technology at Purdue University, explains her thought processes as she plans for an online learning course.

Click 'Play' to start the video.
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Using the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework for learning design

The CoI framework has been used to study online learning. CoI views meaningful online learning as occurring at the intersection of three supporting presences:

Key terms

Community of Inquiry framework: A social constructivist model of the...

  • Social presence
  • Cognitive presence
  • Teaching presence

CoI can also be used as a framework to help you design online courses. Using such a framework can help provide some structure to what can be a messy, creative experience.

You can use CoI to ensure that the course you have planned will effectively support students' development.

In the following activity, you will be presented with a number of different course features. In each case, click on the course feature and then click in the appropriate column, according to which CoI presence you think it relates to.
You will now be presented with a number of different course features. In each case, consider whether you think the course feature relates to teaching presence, social presence or cognitive presence. Then continue on to see if you are correct.

Example course features

  • Item 1 of 11: Group assignment – presentation
  • Item 2 of 11: Weekly announcements
  • Item 3 of 11: Student introductions discussion board
  • Item 4 of 11: Teacher responses in discussion board
  • Item 5 of 11: Grading rubric for student discussions
  • Item 6 of 11: Visual course plan
  • Item 7 of 11: Synchronous tutorials
  • Item 8 of 11: Case studies
  • Item 9 of 11: Audio feedback on assignments
  • Item 10 of 11: Individual assignment – report
  • Item 11 of 11: Teacher-produced screencasts

Now continue to see if you are correct:


Teaching presence

Teacher-produced screencasts

Weekly announcements

Teacher responses in discussion board

Visual course plan


Social presence

Student introductions discussion board

Synchronous tutorials

Audio feedback on assignments

Grading rubric for student discussions


Cognitive presence

Case studies

Individual assignment – report

Group assignment – presentation

Other approaches to learning design

For the purpose of this course, we will be using a general learning design approach, but it's worth noting that many approaches to learning design exist for different contexts, learning theories, and even levels of difficulty. If you are interested in looking in more detail at specific learning design models, here are some examples:

Useful links

Gráinne Conole's 7Cs of learning design focus on the decisions you will...

Foundations

Diana Laurillard promotes the creation and sharing of theory-based learning...

  • The popular Quality Matters model, with its rubric of standards, aims at continuous improvement in the design quality of online and blended courses.
  • Constructive alignment, explored by Biggs and Tang (2007), is an outcomes-based teaching and learning framework that proposes the systematic alignment of teaching/learning activities and assessment tasks to the intended learning outcomes (or learning objectives), according to the learning activities (p.7).
  • Diana Laurillard describes a more contemporary approach in her book, Teaching as Design Science. Laurillard promotes the creation and sharing of theory-based learning designs supported by online collaborative design tools and repositories.
  • The 3 E framework looks at technology-led transformations of the curriculum on a continuum from Enhanced to Extended to Empowered.
  • Gráinne Conole's 7Cs of learning design focus on the decisions you will need to make when designing an online course. These are divided into seven stages: conceptualise, capture, create, communicate, collaborate, consider and consolidate.

rubric

A tool or guide that helps to define the specific criteria for assessing a piece of work. It helps teachers to provide feedback and enables students to understand both assignment and assessment expectations and standards.

Constructive alignment

An outcomes-based teaching and learning framework, proposed by Biggs and Tang (2007), in which teaching/learning activities and assessment tasks are systematically aligned to the intended learning outcomes.

The 'Useful links' pod on the right-hand side of this screen will help you explore these approaches further.

The 'Useful links' pod at the end of this section will help you explore these approaches further.

In the following videos, experienced practitioners explain how they use different learning design approaches.

In the following interviews, experienced practitioners explain how they use different learning design approaches.

Click 'Play' to start the video.
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Having completed this screen you should start to see the key terms being used more regularly and feel yourself becoming more familiar with what the learning design process involves.

Having completed this section you should start to see the key terms being used more regularly and feel yourself becoming more familiar with what the learning design process involves.


Key terms

Community of Inquiry framework: A social constructivist model of the processes which support learning in an online environment.

Social presence: The degree to which participants in online environments feel affectively connected to one another.

Cognitive presence: The extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning in online courses.

Teaching presence: the design and organisation of course materials and activities, facilitation of learning, and direction and leadership in online courses.

Useful links

Foundations

Diana Laurillard promotes the creation and sharing of theory-based learning designs supported by online collaborative design tools and repositories: Laurillard, D. (2012) Teaching as Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology, New York: Routledge.

Biggs and Tang's constructive alignment model – an outcomes-based teaching and learning framework that systematically aligns both activities and assessment to the learning objectives: Biggs, J. & Tang, C. (2007) Teaching for Quality Learning at University: What the Student Does (4th edition), Maidenhead: Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.