When you finished your ABC workshop, you will have left with a new storyboard for your unit, and an action plan for what you need to do next. If you need some ideas for turning the action plan into reality, this page may help. If you’re unsure which technologies can support your activities, we have some suggestions for you. There are some links to additional assistance with incorporating strategic considerations into your curriculum. And finally, we have described a handful of learning design models that you may find useful when converting your high-level curriculum design into actual lessons and resources.
In addition to this page, you will also find a lot of useful information on the rest of our site. The Training pages contain a wealth of information on the eLearning systems available to you, and QuickChecks provides advice on structuring your Blackboard unit and developing your assessments.
Which systems should I use?
Following your ABC session, you are probably thinking about converting your storyboard into a set of learning materials. Just as you have identified a range of different activities for your students, you will now most likely need to use a range of different systems to most effectively facilitate those activities.
Many eLearning platforms are available to support this process, but the choice can be overwhelming. To help you understand the options you have, we have taken a representative selection of the tools supported by the FBMH eLearning team, and identified which activity types they can support.
Links to training on these tools are available by clicking the icons on the wheel.
During the workshop, you will have had the chance to consider how your curriculum could support key strategic goals such as promoting the development of digital capabilities and encouraging equality, diversity and inclusion. These are not always easy things to integrate, but there is guidance and assistance available for all of them.
If you are not sure what constructive alignment means in principle, John Biggs has produced an excellent summary that is freely available online. This is very much a summary, however, and should you wish to explore the subject in more depth there are many excellent sources of information that can be found online, including Biggs & Tang’s classic work on the subject. Please note that a newer edition of their book is available, but not as an online version through the UoM Library.
It is highly likely that you are already teaching your students valuable digital skills, but it is quite possible that they do not realise this explicitly. It may even be that you have not realised the full range of capabilities you are encouraging them to develop. Reflecting on what you are doing, and what your students are learning, will help you to take this to the next level. You may find the Jisc mapping tool helpful in understanding where you are, and deciding where you would like to be.
There are also many useful resources available for both staff and students on ITL’s site, including a set of case studies that may serve to inspire you.
If you wish to talk to someone about how to incorporate EDI into your curriculum, you can find a list of contacts for the University’s EDI team here. You may also wish to point your students towards online support resources for their studies and their welfare. If you’d like to develop your EDI knowledge further, the EDI team also offer a range of training courses.
If you wish to ensure your blended curriculum meets the needs of your students, you may wish to consult the University’s resources on delivering blended learning. The examples given there will help to make sure your practice will meet the expectations of OfS. You may also find the University’s pages on Flexible Learning to be helpful as this includes an exploration of our Flexible Learning Strategy. If you wish to consult either the OfS blended learning report, or the results of the expert panel’s review, you can find both documents online on OfS’ website.
Learning Design Models
When you design the activities for your new curriculum, you may not be sure where to start, or you may want some guidance on effective design strategies. Learning design models can help to structure the design process and make sure that you have considered all the relevant factors. These models are used differently to curriculum design models such as ABC, not least because they work at different scales. Where ABC has allowed you to shape your curriculum as a whole, learning design models are intended to help you create lessons or even individual activities.
There are many different models available, so to help you get started we have selected four options that approach the process from different directions. We suggest you review each to see which may resonate most deeply with your ways of working. If you use a model which makes sense to you, you will likely find yourself able to use it more easily rather than fighting against it and giving up in frustration.
ADDIE is a classic learning design model that has been used and refined for several decades. It is a very simple model, but is highly adaptable and it is often found to make intuitive sense to new users.
What is ADDIE?
ADDIE is one of the simplest learning design models, and as such has been subject to some criticism over the years. Its longevity and continued use, however, speak to its utility. It’s based on a simple 5-step plan of Analyse, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. One of the valid criticisms of the model is that these steps were originally seen as a waterfall process, where the process ends once you’ve completed the Evaluation stage. A much stronger version of the model is to instead see it as a cyclic process, where Evaluation leads back to the start to enable iterative improvements to your design in response to feedback and reflection. Strictly speaking, you would also want to make allowance for each stage to potentially lead back to a previous one if a major issue was discovered at any point. It would be deeply unwise, for example, to stubbornly persist with a Design that is technically impossible using the tools that are made available in the Development stage.
Looking more closely at each stage, you will see how ADDIE allows you to create an evidence-based design quite easily.
During the Analysis phase, you should seek to understand the learners’ needs. Who are they, how will they be learning, what learning outcomes are you seeking to achieve, and what content will be covered? This phase should help you create a specification for the activity. You can also use this phase to look at the wider context to identify opportunities and threats.
Next, you should look at the Design. What will it look like? How will learners experience it? How are you going to make it engaging and effective? Storyboarding is a useful way to plan out this stage, as are things like design boards that would let you determine your colour palette, typefaces, example imagery and so on.
During Development, you will convert your design into an actual product. How you do this depends on what the activity will be. Selecting an appropriate platform to create it is very important, as you need to make sure it has the affordances you need. This is not always a single-step stage, especially for complex designs. You may wish to experiment and create prototypes, you may need to access additional expertise to create media, and may even want to do some preliminary user testing. It is quite normal for this stage of the process to be the most time-consuming by far.
Implementation is when you get your resource to your audience. Hosting or uploading it to the appropriate environment, making sure your learners know how to access it, and providing support in case of difficulties are all part of this stage.
Finally, you should Evaluate your resource. This should take into account user feedback, data from the learning environment, and your own reflections on the experience. This is your chance to improve your design in response to all these sources of feedback, and to improve the user experience for the next time your use the resource. Unfortunately, despite its importance, this stage is frequently missed or glossed over. Taking the time for a meaningful review will help improve the student experience in future.
In summary, ADDIE is a simple, straightforward, and adaptable learning design tool. Some may find it overly simplistic and would like a method with more granular steps, but if you like a relatively open structure then you may find ADDIE easy to use.
Want to know more?
This site goes into detail on how to approach designing with ADDIE.
If you are looking for a more scholarly description of the model, there are so many articles written on its use that it is hard to recommend one over the others. Searching for one that suits your particular need (e.g. mobile learning, distance learning) will almost certainly produce several sources. A particularly interesting ADDIE variant is the INCLUSIVE ADDIE which interweaves EDI considerations into the standard ADDIE model.
The steps in the ASSURE model are rather more explicitly student-focused than is the case in many other learning design models, which may help you to maintain focus on your learners rather than on other considerations such as the technology you will use.
What is ASSURE?
ASSURE is an iterative design process that starts with analysis and ends with evaluation, as many similar models do. The steps in ASSURE are Analyse learner characteristics, State standards and objectives, Select strategies, technology, media and materials, Utilise technology, media and materials, Require learner response, and Evaluate and revise.
The first stage requires you to gain an understanding of your learners, and particularly their characteristics which are related to your learning outcomes. This is to help you choose which teaching strategies will be more effective, and the sort of learning resources that will be most appropriate.
Next, you need to state the learning outcomes for your design. This may be one of your unit-level ILOs, or it could be a lower-level outcome that contributes to an ILO. The usual guidance for writing outcomes applies here, for example reference to Bloom’s taxonomy, and the use of student-focussed language. This stage is not only for informing students of the purpose of your design, but also to help you decide what it is you are trying to achieve.
Step three is where you decide how you will teach, and what resources you will need. Determining your pedagogical approach is extremely important, as this will help determine what your students will actually be doing. With that decided, you can then gather and create the resources you need. Note that in this model, there is no specific need for you to actually create something new. If you already have access to a library of materials, ASSURE can help you to use them in a more thoughtful and purposeful way without having to spend time producing new resources.
At this point, you will know who your learners are, what you want them to do, and how you will help them to do it. The next stage is to put this into action by planning how you will put all this together in practice. You will need to make sure your resources are functional, are available to your learners, and that your learners are ready. Preparing your students for what they are going to do allows them to get the most from the experience.
Another difference to some alternatives is that the ASSURE model explicitly requires learner participation. This means, in practice, that you need to plan for how you will get your learners to engage actively in order to promote learning. What this will involve obviously depends on the pedagogy you’ll use, the teaching modality employed, and so on, but having a plan will enable you to encourage your learners to make the most of the lesson.
The final stage of the ASSURE model is to evaluate what happened and revise your design appropriately. This evaluation should be both reflective and informed by student feedback, and it should take into account the whole process, from ensuring your evaluation of your learners was appropriate, through to having a sound engagement strategy for your learners.
In summary, ASSURE is very similar to other common models at a surface level, but in practice, there are some significant differences. If you are lucky enough to have plenty of pre-existing resources, or if you want to ensure that your learners are the focus of the design, you may find ASSURE is a good fit for your needs.
Want to know more?
A more in-depth description of the stages of ASSURE can be found on educationaltechnology.net.
Learning Experience Design
Also known as LXD, which can result in several spurious results when used as a search term, Learning Experience Design attempts to provide a very different approach to the more traditional, stepwise ADDIE and ASSURE models. Although structured, the LXD approach is rooted more in design thinking than in a systematic approach.
What is LXD?
Trying to find a clear definition of learning experience design can sometimes feel like you’re drowning in a sea of buzzwords. You will be told that it is a learner-first, human-centred, design-thinking approach. You will discover that it is, apparently, inherently more creative and more focussed on the learners than traditional learning design methodologies. But you may still be left wondering what it actually involves after finding out all these things.
It is, perhaps, a function of its philosophy that makes LXD so hard to clearly define. This method is rooted in ideas of design, especially user experience design. It is intended to be something that works by repeated trials, prototypes, and ideation, where you will try many things before deciding on your final approach. The focus on creativity, and the freedom that offers, means that trying to find a simple and specific definition of LXD can be rather frustrating. A recent paper attempted to define LXD based on a publication dedicated to the technique, without clear success
So in the absence of a quick definition, what can we tell you about LXD? One thing is that it is rooted in what’s called “design thinking”. This is less a process than it is a philosophy, which means different things to different people, and encourages the use of research, experiment, theorising and testing. Models of design thinking vary considerably, and not all are linear or cyclic, some are attempts to explain what it means conceptually.
Even though design thinking isn’t necessarily a process, LXD has one. This is often supported by a canvas, essentially a way to collate and use the information you need. The basic process is to start by understanding your context, using this to devise a strategy, then design your activities, and plan them out in a process. A holistic viewpoint of your context is encouraged, for example considering all the people who may be involved in your teaching, not just the students.
That said, LXD’s focus is on the learner. Because of this, you need to know and to understand the learners, but there is no need to cater slavishly to their desires. Sometimes, learning happens as a result of transformative experiences, which may not be what the learner wants, or even finds pleasant. If you don’t know who your learners are specifically, you can still attempt to understand them through the use of personas, though this is not easy. Constructing and using personas effectively requires that they are reflective of real people, and are not just stereotypes.
In summary, trying to pin down what LXD is and is not can be frustrating, and the dividing line between it and learning design models can be rather vague. But it has a different philosophy, and even if some differences may be more semantic than tangible, semantics are important and do affect your thinking. If you prefer coming up with many different ideas to choose between rather than following a strict process to identify a solution, LXD may suit your needs better than something like ADDIE or ASSURE.
Want to know more?
If you would like to know more about how to define LXD and its identity, this paper would be a good starting point. You may also find this example of how LXD had been used in the design of an educational healthcare game to be useful.
Merrill’s Principles of Instruction
Merrill’s Principles are intended to be a universal way of encouraging effective and deep learning, regardless of modality and instructional design theory. In some ways, these principles are complementary to other methods and could be used to scaffold their use. But they are also a useful tool for planning instruction by themselves.
What are Merrill’s Principles of Instruction?
Merrill’s Principles are based on many years of research into commonalities between instructional design principles. They are intended to be a summary of the essential basics of effective instruction that apply regardless of how you go about actually designing your teaching.
The five principles are difficult to represent diagrammatically, as they are not necessarily applied in a strict order, or relate sequentially to each other. But Merrill did list them in an order, and we’ll follow that pattern here.
Learning is promoted when learners are engaged in solving real-world problems. The word problem is applied here quite generally, but should be seen as representing an entire task that learners will apply in their practice. Looking at a whole task avoids issues where related topics end up being taught separately, and ensures that learners understand the importance of what they are being taught. It is necessary, of course, to ensure the complexity of the problem is appropriate for the level of expertise of your learners.
Learning is promoted when relevant previous experience is activated. By having prior knowledge and understanding ready, learners can use this as a solid foundation for structuring and building new knowledge. In cases where students have no appropriate prior knowledge, you will need to provide this for them. Adaptive approaches to teaching are invaluable at this stage for supporting inexperienced students whilst challenging the more experienced.
Learning is promoted when new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner. This does not necessarily mean a practical demonstration, it includes demonstrating how new knowledge can be put into practice in other ways, through discussion for example. Constantly using the same methods of demonstration can be counter-productive, however, and learners benefit from variety at this stage.
Learning is promoted when new knowledge is applied by the learner. After a demonstration, the next obvious step is to get the learners to apply the same knowledge themselves. This can both demonstrate their understanding, and further cement the concepts they have learned. The right level of scaffolding is required here. You must support learners when they start practicing, and gradually make them more independent as their skills improve. Again, this does not need to be a practical task. It could take the form of application exercises where you provide decreasing amounts of guidance, hints, or structure to the exercise.
Learning is promoted when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world. This integration can be shown by having learners demonstrate their new skills to their peers, or by reflecting on what they have learned, for example. Having them work on project-based assessments, test hypotheses, or solve a real problem can all assist with integration.
These principles do not have to be applied sequentially, or individually. It is entirely possible to devise a plan that includes each principle multiple times and in combinations. The important thing is to make sure you use each principle to most effectively promote learning.
In summary, Merrill’s principles of learning do not provide a process to follow. Rather, they are a framework around which effective teaching can be built. Combining these principles allows learners to understand the importance of what they are learning, see how that learning can be put into practice, and have the opportunity to develop tangible skills.
Want to know more?
Merrill describes his principles in detail in a paper that’s freely available online. For a shorter version with a very nice example of a lesson plan, you can look at Education Library’s description.