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Resource: Seven top tips for designs

Ideas for effective learning design

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Gráinne Conole
1 September 2009

Here are my suggested seven top tips for effective design:

  1. Learning activities and assignments mapped to learning outcomes
  2. Appropriate mix of types of tasks (assimilative, information handling, communicative, productive, experiential, simulation)
  3. Appropriate (and timely) tutor support
  4. Appropriate use (and good blend) of technologies
  5. Alignment with current subject (and professional) domain trends
  6. Promotes good pedagogy (active learning, inquiry learning, problem-based learning, constructivist approaches, reflective, dialogic)
  7. Strategic and effective design process [4 aspects: context, tools/resources, pedagogy, tasks]
  • What are your views on these?
  • How could these be used?
  • Has anyone got any other suggestions?

Extra content

Embedded Content

Components of a learning activity

Components of a learning activity

added by Gráinne Conole


11:15pm 2 September 2009

I'd add:

 - connected to 'big problems that matter'

- offers mulitple entry points to accommodate variation in prior knowledge (aka, has depth)

- learning activities have mix of immediate and longer-term artifacts that can be demonstrated/assessed



Gráinne Conole
9:18am 18 September 2009

Afred Low:

  1. Motivate learners to participate; sustains learning
  2. Fulfills the desired outcomes of learning
  3. Takes up the affordances of technologies - adaptivity, surveilance, immediacy and more
  4. Scalable and reusable.
  5. Transforms learners' understanding of the content to be learnt.

Paul Clark
4:27pm 29 October 2009

I think that in the task types there should be room for review and reflection.

Further, there should be an appropriate mixture of autonomous learning and collaborative learning built into the tasks and task sequence.

Gráinne Conole
5:48pm 29 October 2009

Hi Paul review and reflection are both meta-cognitive and hence not concrete tasks, ie you can review and reflect across the 6 concrete tasks - for example you can reflect on participation on a discussion (task type - communication), you can review by creating an e-portoflio (task type - productive.

Mark Pearson
7:20pm 3 November 2009

I would dispute your conclusion Grainne to exclude review & reflection from the task type list. Even if these processes are labelled 'meta-cognitive' surely there's a need to incorporate them explicity, possibly as 'meta-tasks'? Too often review and reflection are ignored when they could be put to beneficial use. Indeed, a technique such as Certainty Based Marking is powerful precisely because it implicitly forces students to reflect upon their real understanding before committing to an answer.

Gráinne Conole
8:26am 4 November 2009

Hi Mark

Thanks for your comments and I totally understand why you say this, review and reflection are very important but they are not "direct' tasks - for example an assimiative task like reading can involve reflection. The six task types are based on a learning activity taxonomy I developed a few years ago - see the asociated cloud on the task types which describes them in more detail and links to relevant references. You might like to take at the design tips cloudscape which gives  an overall picture and the different components of design. Also the describing the curriculum cloudscape contextualises this in terms of how you can describe designs in different ways and at different levels. Review and reflection come in under the view we have called course map, see this cloud for more.

Mark Pearson
8:48pm 4 November 2009

Thanks for these links. I will certainly follow this up. I think I'm getting your distinction between a direct and meta-cognitive task.

Gráinne Conole
9:06am 5 November 2009

Great - looking forward to hearing your views when you have had a chance to read more. Worth pointing out that Peter Goodyear and I have different definitions of "learning activiitie" he sees tasks as the thing set for the learner to do and the learning activiity as what they actually do. I define learning activiites are the set of tasks, tools, resources etc within a context put together to achieve a set of intended learning outcomes.

Nancy Neilan
3:48pm 8 November 2009

Good Morning- I am so glad I stumbled onto this cloud!  I work at a large pediatric hospital and we are looking at ways to improve the consenting process for medical care.  I'm especially interested in finding effective ways to promote shared decision-making between the patient /family and the healthcare provider.  I currently have a grant to create and then evaluate the efficacy of a multimedia patient-decision aid for endocospy. The 7 tips for effective learning design will be helpful when designing the aid as well as when looking at the consenting process in its entirety.   N2

Gráinne Conole
3:50pm 8 November 2009

Hi Nancy - glad you found it useful!

Couple of other things you might like to look at:

Nancy Neilan
12:44am 6 December 2009

Gráinne; Thanks for the above direction. Wow! There is a lot of information here in the clouds! I'm a little overwhelmed, especially not being familiar with these terms and concepts. I'm a laboratory scientist by training and generally zap cells with hormones and play with antibodies for a living. So this is like a foreign language to me. But lately I find myself drawn to the experience of human interaction instead of life in the test tube. Intuitively, this learning design stuff makes sense. 

I want to share a success story I had using the 7 tips for design.

I had a presentation to give to patient-care service researchers on the preliminary results of my informed consent research project. The typical format is to talk for an hour, describing the study design, methods, results, conclusions and plans for future research. Instead of following the norm, I decided I wanted to give an interactive presentation. My motives were two-fold. Talking in front of people is a near-death experience for me and this way I wouldn't have to do all the talking.  More importantly, l wanted to give information in a way that would inspire the audience to turn knowledge into action.

This is how I used the 7 tips (or at least some of them):

I started off by surveying the audience on their perceptions on the current consenting process using an audience response system mapped to Power Point. This allows the survey results to be displayed in real time on the P.P slide. I then switched gears and asked if the audience felt happy with their reading skills and if they read for enjoyment, followed by some statistics on the number of people who struggle with lower literacy (13% of people in Kansas City are functionally illiterate. They can't read a newspaper, fill out a job application or do simple math.)  

This was followed by a slide where actual text taken from our consent form was written backwards. (There is a free program on the internet that will convert any text you type into backward text.) I had the audience read the text out loud so they could have an experience of what it feels like to have lower literacy skills. The research study was then described.

The last part of the presentation had the audience develop a lesson plan for endoscopy consent that was patient-specific; the patient had lower literacy skills and was anxious about the procedure.  I used interactive Power Point slides where the audience's responses were typed into the slide during the presentation. 

The lesson plan was grounded in the 5 core areas of consent: 1) the nature of the proposed procedure; 2) what the procedure involves; 3) associated risks and benefits; 4) alternatives to the proposed procedure, if any; and
5) consequences of declining the proposed procedure and alternatives.  I then asked; "What else do you want to teach?" and "Why is informed consent important?"  A "deer-in -the-headlights" moment followed. I did my best to be comfortable with the silence and let the audience reflect.

The final slide asked: What is one thing YOU will do to help improve the consenting process?

I think people left the talk with more questions than they came in with.  And that's a good thing.



Gráinne Conole
8:07pm 6 December 2009

Hi Nancy thanks for sharing this - very interesting and nice to hear how you have been applying these ideas. Sharing of learning and teaching ideas and designs is exactly what cloudworks has been designed for.

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