Learning Design

Learning Design

Learning Design

Project Lead

Dr Catherine O’Mahony, CIRTL and Patrick Kiely, CDE

Project Team Members

Wolfgang Deicke, Bologna Labs, Humboldt University;

Claire Fennell, Cork University Business School, UCC;

Owen Jump, CIRTL, UCC;

Patrick Kiely, Centre for Digital Education, UCC;

Dave Otway, Chemistry Department, UCC;

Orla Murphy, Digital Arts and Humanities, UCC;

Pat Rice, Law Department, UCC;

Briony Supple, CIRTL, UCC; C

Clive Young, Digital Education, UCL.

The Teaching Challenge

Curriculum development is an ongoing process and often devolves to the individual lecturer. This project provides structured support for staff to move beyond incremental curricular changes to the intentional design of curriculum. The project runs in tandem with ucc’s change initiative to implement a connected curriculum. It also supported the transition towards a new virtual learning environment in ucc and the emergency pivot to online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The learning design workshop draws on Diana Laurillard’s conversational framework focussing on the different ways the learner interacts with concepts. Learner activities include acquisition, investigation, discussion, practice, production, and collaboration. Workshop participants consider the sequencing of these learner activities in a module or programme and use a storyboarding approach to review and develop the curriculum. In the version pioneered by University College London the participants then consider the move to blended learning e.g. an in-class group discussion becomes an online discussion board, and indicate where assessment, whether formative or summative, occurs.

The learning design approach is immensely flexible and has been adapted by the project team to integrate universal design for learning, to reflect on the challenges of active learning approaches when teaching large groups and to integrate the elements of ucc’s connected curriculum, amongst other approaches.

The Project

The project began with an international workshop led by UCL’s Clive Young bringing together collaborators from Humboldt University and key staff in UCC. The first demonstration workshop was successful in persuading change agents in the University of the potential of this curriculum development support for staff. The second workshop was held with staff working to support the implementation of the new VLE as well as staff in UCC’s Teaching and Learning Centre using a ‘train the trainers’ approach.  

A number of face-to-face workshops were held with staff before the University entered its first lockdown in March 2020. Following this, Senior Instructional Designer, Patrick Kiely, worked to transfer the Learning Design workshop to an online offering. Support was provided by Graphic Designer Maia Thomas on how best to use of Miro, Mural, and Jamboard to enable interactive engagement in the workshop and workshops resumed with staff.

A bespoke web page was built to support the Learning Design workshops and existing digital tools available to UCC staff were mapped onto a Learning Design digital tools wheel. Crucially a connection was made into specific training organised by the Centre for Digital Education so that ideas emerging from the Learning Design workshops could be supported and translate into teaching practice.

The Impact

The Learning Design project emerged at a crucial time in UCC’s history providing structured guidance for staff on how to ensure the transition to online teaching created an engaging learning experience for students. This approach is now integrated into CIRTL’s staff development activities and increasingly is being used as a starting point in new learning and teaching initiatives to ensure robust curricular planning from the outset.  In support of UCC’s 2022 strategic plan, this approach is particularly affective in fostering students as partners in curriculum development as demonstrated in recent Design Sprints designed and coordinated by the CIRTL team.

1: Breadth of engagement

Staff were engaged with across a wide range of disciplines with two workshops held in person and eighteen held online during the project. Disciplines engaged with included Speech and Hearing Sciences, UCC Langauge Centre, Maths, History, Management and Marketing, Food Business and Development, Chemistry, Anaesthesiology and Engineering. The Learning Design Workshops primarily involved staff but a ‘students as partners’ approach was piloted in the Design Sprints which was a development of the original Learning Design approach. A conservative estimate for the number of staff and students engaged with directly in workshops is 250. The team worked with individual teachers, programme teams, SATLE grant holders, Cork University Hospital Curriculum Teams (Anaesthesiology), and academic departments for broader curriculum revision (History). Most participants were seeking to enhance an existing module or programme, but in some cases, staff were exploring the development of a new module or how to bring greater synchronicity across a number of modules with a view to enhancing student engagement. 

2: Integration of approach

A bespoke website and related interactive resources were created both for the live workshops and as a pre-workshop resource on Canvas. Linkages were made to ensure the Continuing Professional Development requests emerging from the project were fed into UCC’s Centre for Digital Education or CIRTL. Insights gleaned from the sessions led to the creation of Learning Enhancement Short Guides as this was a way of uncovering the particular needs of staff in relation to online learning. 

3: Sustainability of approach

The Learning Design approach features as a topic in CIRTL’s PG Certificate in Teaching and Learning and is a standard workshop offering for UCC staff coordinated by CIRTL. A critical review of the Learning Design workshop indicated the need to provide pre-workshop resources for staff to engage with and to organise post-workshop follows up to support staff to make these changes. The Learning Design workshop has become a useful starting point for new projects such as a current project on integrating AR/VR in the curriculum and another project on ensuring greater inclusion in teaching and learning. The Learning Design approach has also been developed into the Design Sprints initiative in support of a Connected Curriculum and fostering students as partners in curriculum development.

Future ambitions include using the Learning Design approach in all new programme development initiatives and as part of the cyclical programme review process. Learning Design has been incorporated into the ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation) instructional design model deployed to review the learning activities of the Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and Master’s in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Learning Design is embedded the curriculum design activites of  projects ranging for CPD offerings (iED Hub) through to Learning Analytics projects in concert with CDE and OVPLT colleagues.

For more information

Details of the Learning Design workshop approach are contained on a dedicated webpage. This includes the Learning Design Digital Tools wheel and resources related to the workshop such as an introductory PowerPoint and the workshop materials. Additional learning tools emerging from the project include a short video on Universal Design for Online Learning.

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF

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