Reflections on Topic 4: Learning design

Every topic in this course has provided me with “wow-moments”. I have realised many new things. But none as much as Topic 4. Much of what we have covered earlier in the course came together here, with new perspectives on how to plan, implement, and evaluate courses.

During this course, all webinars have had excellent quality. But I have to say, I found the webinar with Martin Weller the most inspirational! What made this so special? I think it was because it covered the whole process so nicely. From starting to plan a course to the final evaluation with the students. It gave me answers and clues to issues I have myself thought about a lot.

Learning design is an interesting concept. It can mean and include so much. Before the webinar with Martin Weller I cannot say it meant an awful lot to me. But the issues on how to improve student activity and student retention1 are critical for most teachers/instructors. If we can make sure students are active and pass their courses we have done our job, right?

These issues are particularly challenging when teaching and learning takes place online in a distance format. For teachers that were trained for lecturing in classrooms, the challenges of teaching online can feel quite overwhelming. How do you make the sessions and assessment meaningful? How do you get the students involved? Martin Weller provided some really useful experience and conclusions from several years of work by him and his colleagues with courses provided by the Open University in the UK. They were able to boil it down to ten retention tips as presented by the ICEBERG model.1

What made this model special to me is it’s usefulness. Particularly interesting how the collaborative process between the colleagues during the planning stages in order to fulfil the student needs associated with retention. The other thing that really stuck was the feedback to the learners. The experience suggested the feedback did not have to be advanced feedback on course work and learning progression only. Instead, just acknowledging the students and making sure they were all seen by the instructors meant they were more likely to continue the course. We have probably all felt that, but here the data shows it too. As always, there will always be questions and issues when using a simplified model in a specific context. But the way it is based on actual experience from a lot of open education online learners, it is bound to be helpful in any such context. I have a lot to learn here.

Learning design is such a nice topic to wrap up the course with, as it makes most things we have learned so far come together. Both with a learner and teacher/instructor perspective. For me it became clearer than ever that there is so much out there. Whatever questions I dwell upon, someone else has likely already gone through something similar. And chances are they published a paper on it. All I have to do is look for it!

1Weller, M., van Ameijde, J. & Cross, S. (2018). Learning Design for Student Retention. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 6(2).

The world out there I had no idea about