Learning Design in Higher Education: Building Communities of Practice

Learning Design in Higher Education: Building Communities of Practice

Maria Toro-Troconis, Katharine J. Reedy, Julie Voce, Ellie Bates, Lizzie Mills, Cassandra Lewis, Kay Hurst, Steven R. Williams, Christina Perouli, Santanu Vasant
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8661-7.ch010
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This chapter presents the findings from four case studies by higher education curriculum teams who used the CoDesignS Learning Design Framework for designing online or blended learning modules as part of the Learning Design Bootcamp and/or an institutional community of practice (CoP). The aim of the bootcamp was to inspire and empower learning technologists, learning designers, and academics from different disciplines to acquire a learning design mindset. The learning design journeys of each team are explored and analysed. The CoDesignS Framework enabled the teams to develop their designs and to systematically scale up learning design practices within their organisations. The sharing of good practice through the Learning Design Bootcamp and institutional CoPs was a key factor in the development of educator identity and confidence. Together, the framework and CoPs positively impacted culture and mindset, resulting in improved quality of learning and teaching and enhanced student experience and outcomes.
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Learning design has become a discipline widely used in Higher Education (Olney et al., 2021; Conole & Wills, 2013; Dalziel et al., 2016) and there exist a number of frameworks and associated tools for learning design, such as those described by the Jisc learning design family tree (Jisc, 2018). Learning design provides a descriptive framework for the planning of teaching and learning and the conditions under which those activities are performed, either online or in the classroom by the teacher and the learners (Conole, 2007; Dalziel, 2016; Masterman, 2013). Goodyear (2015) argues that a greater focus on the design and planning phase of teaching can improve the quality of higher education through the creation of more engaging and active learning opportunities for students.

Michos and Hernández-Leo (2018) suggest that there is a sociocultural aspect to the learning design process which relates to how individual teachers work with others and the wider community. There is an emphasis on reaching a shared understanding between those involved in the process, often through visualisation of designs. These designs can then be shared with others through tools such as Learning Designer (Laurillard et al., 2018; UCL Knowledge Lab, 2021) or other online collaborative spaces. Persico and Pozzi (2015) emphasise the role of learning design CoPs in helping educators to make better informed design choices.

With the challenges imposed by COVID-19, learning design has become an instrumental discipline to ensure quality of education design and delivery in higher education institutions. However, very few CoPs have been established offering peer-to-peer professional development and support activities in this sector (Clement et al., 2016). The Learning Design Bootcamp, which started in 2019 (Toro-Troconis et al., 2021), is a notable example. Another is the Learning Design Cross-Institutional Network (LD-CIN, 2021), which up until just before the first COVID-19 lockdown in the United Kingdom (UK) in March 2020 was holding regular meetings where practitioners from the UK and beyond could meet and learn from each other.

Practice is considered as “a set of frameworks, ideas, tools, information, styles, language, stories, and documents” (Wenger et al., 2002, p. 29). Three structural elements are created within CoPs, summarised as mutual engagement (how and what people do together as part of practice), joint enterprise (a set of problems and topics that they care about), and shared repertoire (the concepts and artifacts that they create) (Pyrko et al., 2017). When engaging in a learning design process, practitioners need to be supported by people with whom they can identify; changing their practice requires learning through reflection, informal learning and peer-supported learning.

Important dimensions of a CoP are “legitimate peripheral participation” (Lave & Wenger, 1991) whereby newcomers learn practice through a kind of ‘apprenticeship’, thus developing their identity as practitioners over time. Pyrko et al. (2017) refer to the process of knowledge-sharing and collaboration that takes place in CoPs as ‘thinking together.’ As the case studies illustrate, this aspect of Bootcamp participation has been particularly valuable for institutional teams, and, in conjunction with the CoDesignS Learning Design Framework (CoDesignS, 2020), has helped institutions to develop their own learning design strategies.

Key Terms in this Chapter

High Fidelity Simulations: Refers to simulation activities that replicate real clinical or medical situations supported by technology.

Twine: An open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): An online course, open to anyone to join at no charge, typically with large numbers of students.

Laurillard’s (2012) Learning Types: The learning types refer to acquisition : learning through listening, reading, and watching; discussion : learning through discussion and collaboration; enquiry : learners use existing learning resources for their own intellectual enquiry; practice : learners apply their understanding of the concepts to achieving a task goal; and production : learners apply their understanding of the concepts.

Blended Learning: The combination of online learning with face-to-face classroom-based learning.

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE): An online platform for the delivery of learning materials/activities, communication, and assessment.

CoDesignS Green Cards: The green cards present verbs associated with the development of lower order cognitive skills guiding the design of self-directed learning and teaching activities focused on factual and procedural knowledge.

CoDesignS Blue Cards: The blue cards present verbs associated with the development of higher order cognitive skills guiding the implementation of collaborative activities that drive conversation, and reflection.

Reusable Learning Object (RLO): A learning resource, digital or non-digital, that can be used, re-used, or referenced during technology-supported learning.

Online Learning: Refers to learning activities that take place over the Internet either synchronously or asynchronously.

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