Instructional and Learning design M25 Learning Technology Group forum

The M25 Learning Technology group met last Wednesday 25th July to explore, discuss and share good practice on the theme of Instructional Design and Learning Design.

The event was hosted at the University of East London and facilitated by our former LEaD colleague Santanu Vasant. There were six presentations and a panel discussion, so a lot to squeeze in over three and a quarter hours. There was a great turnout with over sixty attendees and lots of interesting discussions in the breaks and in the pub afterwards.

What is the difference between Instructional Design and Learning Design?

There seemed to be quite a high degree of uncertainty in the room as to what the difference is between these two terms or even if there is a difference. So to begin with I think it might help to explore this question further. One view is that the Instructional Design and Learning Design fields are distinct fields each with their own professional communities and that instructional designers are more common in the commercial sector whereas learning designers are more commonly found in the education sector. Another view is that the difference is more semantic as both fields are interested in using innovative pedagogic approaches and learning technologies to design and deliver learning. Instructional designers can also be found in higher education sector for example within Kings’ Online.

In ‘Instructional-Design Theories and Models, Volume III’ (2009), Charles Reigeluth and Alison Carr-Chelman draw the following distinction “the socio-cultural perspective makes learning design as a field distinct from Instructional Design, which tends to focus more at the level of multimedia and is grounded in positivism”. In ‘Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age’ (2013) Helen Beetham and Rhona Sharpe write that “Historically, Learning Design has emerged from instructional design, but with a focus on learning activity as the central concern of the design process. Matt Bower in ‘Design of Technology-Enhanced Learning: Integrating Research and Practice’ (2017) defines Instructional Design as “emphasising the science of cognitively efficient information delivery” whereas he sees Learning Design as having “more of a focus upon collaborative and student-centred learning” with “a greater emphasis on the design of learning tasks rather than the enactment of learning activities”. A good example of this kind of learning design approach is UCL’s ABC Learning design.

As the first speaker Leonard Houx alluded to, some people perceive that there is a divide between the learning design and instructional design communities based in part on different views as to which pedagogical approaches are most effective. Some people find the word ‘instruction’ problematic as for them it connotes a more transmissive didactic pedagogy. Another view is that there is considerable evidence supporting the pedagogic effectiveness of what is termed direct instruction. Dylan Wiliam’s recent tweet on this led to an interesting debate on Twitter between those who find a direct instruction approach useful and those who advocate for what might loosely be termed more socio-constructivist approaches. A good summary relating to direct instruction can be found in Barak Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of Instruction Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know‘.

To slightly complicate matters in Teaching as a Design Science (2012), Diana Laurillard states her preference for the term ‘designing for learning’ as this term “maintains the focus on the learner” and “is more apt than ‘learning design,’ which carries with it a sense that we can design learning; we cannot. But we can do our best to design for learning, in the sense that we create the environment and conditions within which the students find themselves motivated and enabled to learn”. Learning Design is also concerned with how designs can be described, shared and re-purposed and Laurillard has described these designs as “pedagogical patterns”.

The panel discussion

Unfortunately there was not much time for the panel discussion which I felt was perhaps a missed opportunity as there were five excellent panel members coming from both higher education (Mira Vogel from Kings’ College London and Leonard Houx from Cass Business School) and commercial education providers (Ajmal Sultany from Pearson, Matt Jenner from FutureLearn and Maria Toro-Troconis from Cambridge Education group). There were also a lot of people in the room from varied backgrounds and with interesting points of view who had plenty of questions for the panel. At future events I think it may be worth exploring giving more time to a panel with audience and Twitter questions and having fewer presentations.

The future of learning design

Overall this was a great M25 meeting and will hopefully generate further interest around such questions as: To what extent is a learning technologist involved in learning designing?  How can we work together more collaboratively and effectively regardless of whether our role is that of learning technologist, educational developer, academic developer, instructional designer or learning designer? Should learning design be carried out in-house within universities? What is the role of commercial providers such as Pearson, Cambridge Education Group and 2U? Which pedagogic approaches are most effective and appropriate in specific contexts?

The presentations

The Secret Art, Leonard Houx – Cass Business School
Leonard gave his take on what Instructional Design is, where it comes from, and how it can be used. Instructional design has a lengthy history going back to the 1940s so it is difficult to condense this complex history into a 30 minute presentation. The presentation covered all of the major developments, research and theories from Gagne’s ‘Nine Events of Instruction’ to Engelmann’s ‘Direct Instruction’ to Merrill’s ‘First Principles of Instruction’ to Kirschner and van Merrienboer’s ‘Ten Steps to Complex Learning and John Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory.
View Leonard’s presentation

Blank Canvas, Bryony Williams and Kerry Dixon – St George’s University
Structuring Canvas to ensure a simple, yet enriching student learning journey. Using the approach of pre, during and post session activities being facilitated in Canvas. Lessons learnt from previous VLE and culture change within the institute.
Presentation not yet available.

Before instructional design, Mira Vogel – Kings College London
For instructional designers to be able to do their work on activities and sequences, there first need to be dreams, goals, learning outcomes, and assessment plans.
View Mira’s presentation

Learning design, data and in-flight corrections? Samantha Ahern – UCL
The thinking behind recent workshops connecting learning analytics and learning design. How data can be used on a small scale to reflect on teaching practice and learning designs – the benefits and drawbacks of designing it into the learning design process.
View Samantha’s presentation

Cambridge Education Group’s Learning Design Model, Dr Maria Toro-Troconis (Cambridge Education Group) and Dr Antony Aleksiev, QMUL
Cambridge Education Group’s Learning Design Model (PowerPoint Slides) and the work with QMUL courses presented by Dr Maria Toro-Troconis and a colleague at QMUL.

View Maria’s presentation

UEL’s Competency Based Learning Project , Jennifer Bedingham – UEL
This presentation will provide an overview of UEL’s Competency Based Learning project; its successes and struggles and lessons we’ve learned. The online only programme is a Level 4 CertHE in Leadership and Management and is a dual award with CMI.
View Jennifer’s presentation

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