New thinking for course design

hsc3Can current learning design tools and resources really make a difference to the way in which course teams go about design? Adrian Kirkwood and I ran a two-day workshop with people in our Health and Social Care faculty this week which is attempting to really explore whether or not this is possible. We’ve been planning it for some time with the associate dean - Mick Jones. The aim was to have a targetted event which gave an overview of the best in current thinking on learning design and to give the participants a chance to play with some of the different learning design tools and resources, as well as plenty of opportunity to use different schema to think about the design process. We began by asking them what they wanted out of the workshop, which included:

  • Help and ideas in planning a new course
  • Strategies for more time effective design
  • How to adopt a more student-centred approach to design
  • Better understanding of the level of commitment needed in the design process
  • Inspiration!
  • Ways of thinking differently
  • What works and what doesn’t
  • The opportunity to share ideas
  • Ideas for how to adopt a more holistic perspective
  • How to involve all stakeholders in the process
  • Increase my understanding of what colleagues:
    • think is currently working  (evidence of best practice) e.g. successes of   learning with digital media (what works in an HSC  context)
    • think is on the horizon and what  the shared view is of what we should be working  towards
    • identify as effective means of  support in creating learning designs and therefore what role I might play in  supporting them
  • Understand the implications of new technology on course design especially remaking courses in print design
  • Gain an understanding of how to use Compendium and its uses
  • Feel confident in being able to conceptualise course design in a different ways

The workshop was divided into ten themes; the format for each included an introduction to the topic,  some hands on activities, discussion of the application of the ideas to the HSC context and time for report back and discussion. The themes were:

  1. Context - dynamic changes and the external environment
  2. hsc3

  3. Teacher perspectives and expectations
  4. The student perspective and experience
  5. Strategies for design
  6. Different ways of thinking
  7. Forms of represention
  8. Representations in action
  9. Resources and case studies
  10. Constructing the narrative
  11. Action plans and next steps 

hsc1The workshop was timed to coincide with the starting point for the remake of a number of second level courses in HSC, so the participants were able to reflect throughout on how the content of the workshop might be of use to them in their subsequent redesigns. The aim now is to let the dust settle and for the design teams to begin working on their courses and start to apply some of the ideas and tools from the workshop to their context. We plan to have a follow up workshop in September to pick up the theme and either explore some of the tools in more depth or develop further ideas for design in their context. I think this is really exciting. hsc4It isn’t often you get the chance to really follow through how these kinds of resources might be used in a real context!  What i think worked particularly well was Mick coming in throughout and talking about the HSC context - what they were currently doing and plans for the future. Participants had the chance to play with four current learning design tools - the JISC-funded Phoebe and London Pedagogic Planner (LPP) tools that I have blogged about before, our tool for visualising designs (CompendiumLD) and our new prototype social networking site for sharing designs (Cloudworks).  It was encouraging the see that they were enthusiatic about both CompendiumLD and Cloudworks. They could see real benefit in adopting a more visual approach to design and there was alot of discussion about how visualisation could be used to map different levels of the course design process - from a macro, holistic level down to micro, individual learning activities. However they were also aware that such visualisation on its own would not be enough and would need to be complemented with other forms of representation.  Some of the comments made included:

Liked it and [also] how you can export it so that others can view it – [could] use it initially in a course team as an alternative way of minuting discussion and it can capture that discussion in a way that [written] minutes can’t and then use as a basis for further discussions                         



Loved it!! As a way of organising curriculum, assets, case studies etc. in different typologies etc

Similarly they could see real benefit in having a social networking site for design particularly if it had enough people from HSC using it and if resources and tools specific to their disciplines were included in it.  

I enjoyed it, its got potential, but at the moment resources are very generic                           


Great to have a social repository and easy to access things and great to see other peoples ideas                          

The key issue with Cloudworks is going to be achieving critical mass and ensuring that the site is constantly evolving and developing - although we are currently seeding it, ultimately it will have to be self-sustaining and owned by the community - that will only be achieved if users can see real, tangible benefit in using and contributing to it. BUT despite all the positive comments during the workshop, as always the proof will be in the pudding. It’s one thing to find ideas, resources and tools interesting in a workshop, quite another to really take these up and use them in anger in a real context. That’s for me what is exciting about this work with the HSC faculty - they are going to try and apply these ideas to real course designs. Will these ideas, tools and resources make a difference? I don’t know but hopefully we will find out over the next few months. Oh and by the way it was a great workshop because they were such a nice bunch of people to work with, there was real dedication, enthusiasm and passion to try and make a real difference to the student experience - to design student-centred, innovative courses.   The slides from the workshop are up in slideshare and below.

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3 Responses to “New thinking for course design”

  1. Eckart Says:

    Hi Grainne

    Seems that you had a really interesting course. I asked myself in how far were the participants involved with elearning before the course. The question behind is: Is elearning good for all learners/teachers or only for edutech-freaks?

    Nice greetings

  2. Gráinne Says:


    yes good question - i think there is a difference and this group were already innovators in how they develop courses generally and also in using technologies so that meant the level of engagement and discussion was deeper than it would have been with novices

  3. kathrine Says:

    I’m looking for ecourse desin standards.can you help me?
    thanks alot

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