Slide 3

Introducing the Digital Learning Design Toolkit for course teams.

Teesside University in collaboration with Jisc UK have developed a Digital Learning Design Toolkit. There was a time before Covid when education had a focus in higher and further education. This focus was delivering learning and teaching utilising traditional teaching methodologies in face to face environments. Of course, there were exceptions and excellent examples of where online learning, blended learning, hybrid learning has been used to their full potential. However, with the advent of Covid, Jisc saw an enormous uptake of the support and guidance we provide, helping and supporting members to move towards online delivery rapidly. For many, this was the first time moving to remote teaching and came with many challenges, but importantly, opportunities. As mentioned previously, relatively few institutions discovered these opportunities before Covid, and as a consequence, are now ahead of the game in terms of remote delivery. However, most institutions are only now discovering the opportunities to enhance and develop what they have been delivering face-to-face in an online environment.

Building on the digital transformation journey which Teesside University had embarked on prior to the pandemic, we had a confident set of digital academic practices to build upon to develop solid online learning courses and experiences for students. We learned also that the sorts of requests for support our team members were getting centred around the theme of learning design. For example: How best can I design my modules using the digital platforms and solutions on offer; how do I determine which practice is best to be delivered on campus and which is best to be delivered online; how do I manage the expectations of my students.

The new ways of designing courses, whether this is through a hybrid model of delivery or a full fledged online model of delivery, challenge universities to change, think and do things differently. How we approach digital learning design is critical to student success. The purpose of our collaboration is to bring together sector-wide, national and international perspectives to support the education sector to design and deliver successful online learning courses, having reflected and learned from the past fifteen months as courses rapidly pivoted from campus delivery into online delivery.

Teesside University in collaboration with Jisc UK have developed a Digital Learning Design Toolkit. The Digital Learning Design Toolkit can be a fundamental action you take to ensure not just one department, not just one school, but an entire institution can move towards effective online delivery in a structured and supportive way.

It has been designed to help course teams reflect, work collaboratively to determine the key considerations of each segment of the Digital Learning Design model. We have developed these questions to help course teams pursue a reflective and collaborative approach to course design, creating the space for innovation and excellence as they see fit. In preparing the sector towards online and hybrid learning readiness, the Digital Learning Design Toolkit will focus on the design of learning and teaching with the aim to create modules and courses that can offer outstanding learning experiences. The framework and associated toolkit help course designers and tutors to develop and maintain an academic quality offer that is rigorous and high-quality. This brings out the best digital learning experiences for students:

  • a learner journey that is clear, logical, systematic
  • a rich pedagogic rationale that is relevant to the subject discipline
  • a learning environment that encourages active engagement through collaboration and communication, reflection and knowledge development.

When done well, we believe this has the most impactful learning opportunities for students. Online environments, particularly when the learning environment is one that is an expansion of the learning ecosystem, allow learning to take place through a variety of mediums, preparing students for a digital and hybrid workplace. The student journey is the driver to review your designs to include enhancements, nurturing excellence and creativity and strengthening resilience. The process can encourage the avoidance of practices which resulted in the VLE becoming a ground for simply transferring what happens on campus to online or as a repository of all things that would be covered on campus to online, without carefully planning and designing for the student centeredness of a design principle.

To develop high-quality online learning modules and courses, this Digital Learning Design Toolkit is written for two intended audiences:

  • Course Leaders: use the toolkit with their Course Team to inform the design of their Course.
  • Facilitators: who lead a Course Design event, attended by Course Teams, to inform the design of Courses.

Furthermore, in reimagining how we prepare students for the changing world, the toolkit is a conversation starter to help course teams and course designers to consider:

  • their views on digital literacies and how do we move beyond literacies to confidence and fluency?
  • what would a curriculum underpinned by (digital) literacies/competencies look like for equipping students for change?
  • how do we equip students with the resilience to navigate the ever-changing digital landscape?
  • what does future-readiness mean, and can we actually prepare ourselves and students for the future?

As an outcome, we hope that the framework and toolkit offers a vision of how integration of digital solutions can help us with future-proofing learning and teaching experience:

  • Reimagining our academic practice and teaching
  • Continually investing in our own professional development
  • Embedding the construct of creativity, resilience and adaptability into subject disciplines
  • Preparing students to tackle grand challenges in the world through a broad curriculum
  • Developing personalised learning opportunities through digital tools and adaptive assessments and feedback
  • Reimagining how we design and use assessments

The toolkit has three ambitions to drive creativity and learning design principles across the sector:

  • A methodology for course designers for seamless and coherent integration of digital solutions; identifying factors to consider when making decisions about what activities are best served online and what are best on campus.
  • A step-by-step process that enables a deep, analytical and robust design tool to bring out the best digital learning experiences for students.
  • A space within the toolkit for tutors to consider their own individual developmental needs to effectively and appropriately integrate the use of digital technologies into their learning design/curriculum. 
The toolkit authors

The authors of the toolkit have over five decades of combined experience in online education, starting as academics and learning designers and moving into leadership roles. Sound educational research and guidelines (including compliance with legal requirements, accessibility, and learning designs) are built into the continuous improvement planning for online courses and programmes. The toolkit is quite unique in that it has been shaped and influenced by a student who has worked with us throughout this collaboration. As a full time student, Archana has experienced student life during the pandemic when the campus was functioning in a hybrid system and later completely online. Archana’s student journey enabled us to add a unique student voice to the project. Please contact the authors directly if you would like us to facilitate a digital learning design event in your organisation.

Authors Dr Anne Thanaraj, PFHEA, email: , and collaborators see image above. Contact Anne for a copy of the toolkit.

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member.


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