Learning design roles

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Responsibilities for learning design

Course design is complex and time-consuming. Not all teachers are expected to carry out detailed needs analysis and curriculum design, such as designing a course and writing its aims and learning outcomes. But all teachers need to develop skills in designing learning activities and resources.

Typically, extra staff resources may be required when designing a whole new programme or a large course.

Although one person may be charged with designing and developing a new curriculum, good practice relies on significant collaboration and consultation. The designer should be seen as part of a wider team. This means that all interested parties (the stakeholders) are more likely to be included in the process, potentially leading to a final product that is acceptable to them. So who are the likely stakeholders in your professional situation?

Group discusses storyboards.jpg

When designing a complex learning project such as an online course, interactive materials, an educational game or a simulation, a specialised team may be needed. This might include:

Educational designer
contributes educational expertise about the pedagogy and technologies,
Subject-matter expert
contributes knowledge of the subject or the learning resource,
Graphics designer
designs and develops art work and the 'look and feel',
Educational developer
implements the design using appropriate media,
Project manager
manages the work flow, milestones, budget and the interactions between team members,
Other experts as required
these might include a photographer, videographer or other technical specialist.


Case Study: Emilia

Emilia has a lighter teaching load in her first few months on the job to allow her to develop the new course. Although she is the only teacher in the department with a high level of public health expertise, she does draw on the knowledge of other staff members, especially for the educational aspects of course design. For example, an educational designer is assisting her to plan the overall design of the course based on a blended learning model.

She also consults with her contacts in the 'real world' to ensure her course is not just based on her own experience. Before she begins writing the learning outcomes she consulted with an educational designer to develop a framework for what she is hoping to achieve.

Emilia has worked with a colleague within the polytechnic to discuss drafts of what she has written - this has helped her with aspects such as writing effective learning outcomes and assessment.


Case Study: Brett

Like Emilia, Brett has prime responsibility for redesigning his course. But he too consults with contacts in the workplace about course outcomes and content. He also intends to gather information from students to hear their suggestions.

Because his department wants to continue developing the use of technology in the course, Brett has had several discussions with a colleague knowledgeable about blended-learning within the polytechnic.

Learner autonomy and collaboration

As we have seen, good practice in learning design depends on collaboration and consultation. Learners can be involved in course design in several ways:

  • The course design can allow enough flexibility for some degree of learner autonomy. This may include options for course delivery and learning paths and activities, as well as choice of assessment topics and how this might be assessed.
  • Feedback from past and existing learners can be sought to provide guidance on course content and outcomes.


Case Study: Emilia

Emilia plans to incorporate assessment projects where the learners can choose what topic they will research as well as the sorts of assessment evidence they will submit.


Case Study: Brett

Brett has had an informal discussion with several current learners who are working as apprentices and studying part-time: they've been able to give him some very useful insights into current industry practice.