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W3. Approaches to Design

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Sancha de Burca
24 January 2013

W3 Approaches to Design

Sancha de Burca

When planning new learning design I usually think about what needs to be learned – ie the content. This, in turn, will probably be broken down into smaller portions. I especially think about how one piece needs to follow another, a kind of chronology, to ensure that the learner would understand each part of the process before moving on to another. Another part that I consider is the inspiration or motivating parts. I like to use interesting case studies and unusual pieces of design for analysis.  I try to build on my own learning from previous design – what went well, what went less well and what is outdated or needs to be newly addressed (this happened a lot in graphic design, which is ever-moving technologically). I look particularly at elements I consider need to be learned in order to move in to a community of practice and think about how learners might like to approach this, especially if it might be considered a more dry or boring part of the course/project. As well as practice I also teach theory which can be challenging, so I try to find interactive scenarios and examples to demonstrate it. I think previous designs can sometimes be followed because of habit and comfort zones so I try to re-consider the relevance of well-used parts of learning design. Often, it is just nice to change things so that the facilitators don’t get stale.

I do get a lot of inspiration for learning design from conferences and exhibitions that I have attended, or from guest speakers, practitioners and competitions. I find the annual e-learning conference at the University of Greenwich one of the richest places for ideas (although we don’t always take them direct, but adapt them – and I am very careful not to use technology just because it is there). I usually do get really fired up to bring new ways of looking or practicing into the learning design. This is probably one of the most rewarding parts of my profession – if I am inspired I want to pass that on to my learners. I have some really helpful colleagues and there is one in particular that I discuss all of this with. Frequently I will actually be designing whole courses or individual project briefs with him, although there are also ones that I will be working on alone. Having an idea and then chewing the fat over it is really helpful and indeed fun!

I do not think that I have had difficulties explaining my ideas about learning design –although maybe I should ask the people I am talking to. Quite often when planning with my colleague we take a kind of “what if…” approach and draw up charts, mind maps or visualisations to help us get it all in shape. This might be because we are teaching graphic design where most of what we do is visualise! I picture everything taking place across time, so I often make calendars to work out designs.

One other thing has occurred to me and that is that it is really interesting and enjoyable to design learning when you are confident about the subject matter. However, I also have been involved in learning design where I am less confident of the actual subject – where I am not part of the community of professional practice. This is much harder and could only be done in teams where people are sharing skills and knowledge. The pedagogical aspects are not so difficult but actually deciding what logistics (activities, resources etc) are beneficial is quite challenging.

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