So what on earth promoted me to write a book on learning design? I think the origins to this work stretch back to my initial experience of teaching in the early nineties. I started my career as a lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry. Soon after I took up the post, a number of my colleagues, past on some of their courses for me to take over. My experience of education was solely based on my own learning at school and as an undergraduate (essentially around lectures, tutorials and laboratory classes). I had no knowledge of educational theories and didn’t even know what a learning objective was I am ashamed to say. In addition to trying to design my teaching sessions based on this woeful lack on experience, I was struggling to build up a distinct research profile through data collection, and the writing of papers and project proposals.
I attended a staff development session which stated that it aimed to support teachers in developing their teaching practice. It was a disaster. The session was run by a staff development woman, who kept rabbeting on about constructivism and other esoteric educational terms I had never heard of. At the end I was demotivated and frustrated. The session had been no help at all and indeed was counter-productive.
I suspect my initial experience of being a lecturer is not uncommon. We are primarily hired based on our research expertise and subject domain knowledge, not on our teaching experience. Luckily today many institutions do have in place a professional practice programmes for new lecturers, to introduce them to relevant educational theories and expose them to examples of good learning and teaching practice.
Nonetheless my own experience sowed a seed in my mind around the question: ‘What kind of support mechanisms can we put in place to support teachers in their teaching practice and to enable them to develop effective approaches to the design of learning interventions?’ On reflection I think this question has been at the core of my research work over the last twenty years. It has lead me through a journey of the development and evaluation of the use of different technologies, and ultimately to the development and evaluation of the Open Learning Design methodology outlined in this book.
This is an exciting time in education, which is operating within an increasingly complex societal context, one of rapidly changing technologies and increasing financial constraints. New social and participatory media have much to offer for learning and teaching, to address this challenging context, however to fully harness this potential we need to radically rethink the way in which we design, delivery, support and assess learning. The tools and methods described in this book are put forward as a means of trying to achieve this, with an underlying aspiration to transform teaching practice and ultimately enhance the learner experience.