(c) University of Edinburgh Digital Image Collections CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

‘Have nothing in your library that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’, William Morris might have said.  In our library we have a copy of the Decretals of Gratian, printed in 1472, which was reputedly the favourite printed book of its owner, Morris himself.

With a movement towards open practice in higher education the topic of learning design in technology enhanced education seems to have become popular again.

“Learning design is the practice of planning, sequencing and managing learning activities, usually using ICT-based tools to support both design and delivery.”1

Are our online courses useful and beautiful?  Much discussion at ALT, helpful JISC guides, toolkits , OER materials and some new tools in the space. It’s time to spend some time looking at the art and craft.

If we can be transparent about what we are doing we can reproduce the elegant elements.  If not, it’s curtains for us.

Jisc Learning Design Studio say the benefits of following learning design process are:

  • It acts as a means of eliciting designs from academics in a format that can be tested and reviewed by others involved in the design process, i.e. a common vocabulary and understanding of learning activities.
  • It provides a method by which designs can be reused, as opposed to just sharing content.
  • It can guide individuals through the process of creating new learning activities.
  • It helps create an audit trail of academic (and production) design decisions.
  • It can highlight policy implications for staff development, resource allocation, quality, etc.
  • It has the potential to aid learners and tutors in complex activities by guiding them through the activity sequence.

‘Learning design’ has suffered slightly in the UK, I think, from being  used interchangeably with ‘instructional design’ which has US and ‘training’ connotations which seem to make it unattractive to academic colleagues who prefer to think that learning is serendipitous, discovery based and personalised. There is also a difference between ‘designing for learning’, ‘learning by design’ and ‘learning design’.  One difference is that learning design comes with its own set of technical standards which shape tools and platforms.

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