Blog post – What I learnt from working with a Learning Designer

 

Mythbusted: learning design 

Learning design isn't all technology based innovations. Listen in to Learning Designer Chris Frost as he discusses the key considerations when working in collaboration with academic staff.

 


What I learnt from working with a Learning Designer

I coordinate a core course in the Master of Development Practice (MDP) called SOSC7433 Transformative Economics. I was interested in how digital literacy could be woven into this particular course to ensure all MDP students have a chance to develop these skills, and to also align our curriculum more closely to UQ’s Student Strategy. I was also interested in improving my own abilities in the digital literacy arena to better support my students. I have drawn upon Chris Frost’s (HASS Learning Designer) wisdom over the years as he regularly joins our Teaching and Learning Committee to share ideas and opportunities, so it was easy to begin a conversation with him in his faculty eLearning coordinator role.

Through both email and face-to-face meetings, Chris helped me understand what was meant by digital literacy. He supported me to identify possible resources, tools, assessment ideas, and marking rubrics, and worked with me to redesign my course curriculum to weave these through. He also introduced me to other academics who had used some of the activities I had planned, so I could learn from their experiences and build a local community of practice. Second, we ran an in-class session where Chris directly interacted with my students through a demonstration workshop, to help them develop the necessary skills to undertake the activities we designed.

Our initial conversations focused on why digital literacy would be of use to my students, as well as potential resistance I might expect. This enabled me to test some of my underpinning assumptions before embarking on the process. This was especially important given that many students in the MDP are non-traditional students, being mature-aged, 50% international, and many from developing nations where technology exposure might be more limited or vary more dramatically (for example between urban and rural areas). One of my initial concerns was that some students were from places that didn’t even have electricity, let alone advanced technology, and I worried about the relevance of the agenda. Chris shifted the focus from technology to understanding this work in a much broader context. He stressed the use of digital technology to develop necessary skills for adapting to changing environments, and understanding this skillset as part of a broader employability mindset – necessitated by changing employment patterns globally. This gave me the courage and conviction to pursue these practices.

During our conversations, Chris introduced me to the latest programs and technology platforms available at UQ as these were going to be more accessible, less costly, and more secure for students. He also introduced me to resources available online to support students.

This is the second time I’ve embarked on incorporating eLearning and digital technology into the curriculum and I’ve learned not to bite off too much at once (listen to my past experience). With support from Chris, it was much more manageable. I ended up with a mix of very traditional assessment tasks (like a written book review) as well as tasks requiring new skills (an infographic and a video).

Feedback from students indicated they loved the infographic task we created and found it a much more interesting way of engaging with their research material. They appreciated the opportunity to be creative, they had fun, and many expressed gratitude that not all of their assessment in the course required formal writing. This was particularly true of international students for whom English writing does not always demonstrate the depth of their understanding. As a course coordinator, having this diversity of assessment tasks felt like a fairer assessment regime.

See examples of student work – "Toowoomba, a refuge welcome zone" and "Stories beyond borders".

The video task received much less enthusiasm. Students felt having two tasks based on digital literacy was too great a burden in terms of having to learn the course content AND master new technology. They also seemed to struggle with using the suite of programs available through UQ, with many students going outside of UQ to purchase special software – I’m yet to understand why this occurred.

Even though Chris had helped me talk to many people, to collect examples and build marking rubrics from as many sources as I could, a number of students felt the marking criteria were too subjective, and I had more requests for remarks from students than I’ve ever had before. Students felt that their marks didn’t reflect the effort that they had made – which may speak to how difficult they found the tasks and an underestimation of the work involved for some. So I’m thinking the learning design team hasn’t seen the last of me yet!

I think my experience in reworking this course is important for two reasons. First, as most course coordinators would know, redeveloping a course is an incredibly time consuming task and we don’t get any additional resources to be innovative and it usually happens by giving late nights and weekends to the task. It is a lot of time and effort to put into something that potentially might not work. I cannot emphasise what an amazing resource our team of Learning Designers are. They have a wealth of knowledge and ability to encourage different thinking. It means we don’t have to start from scratch every time. 

Second, teaching is often a lonely task. Knowing Chris was working with me made me feel less isolated and overwhelmed. It was terrific to have someone I could run an idea past, or from whom I could get feedback on my assessment plans. I enjoyed having someone walking alongside me from whom I could continue to learn and am very grateful to Chris for his generosity of time and skills over the semester.

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Dr Lynda Shevellar is a Lecturer in community development in the School of Social Science. Please get in touch with Lynda if you would like to chat further about her experience working with a Learning Designer or how to integrate infographics into your course.

Chris Frost is a Learning Designer in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Please get in touch with Chris for any queries on this topic.


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UQ has a diverse group of staff doing learning design work, with a range of titles and responsibilities. Most Learning Designers do some of the following:

  • Help teachers implement teaching and learning policy or strategy
  • Help people use a technology to support learning
  • Design inclusive teaching or technology
  • Consult with academics about their teaching
  • Support the design of assessment
  • Develop resources for students and academics to use
  • Design and facilitate professional development for teachers.

If you are not sure if a Learning Designer could help, it is worth asking, even if they aren’t the person who can help you, they will often know someone who can.

Contact Faculty-based Learning Designers or ITaLI Learning Designers.

Some projects where Learning Designers have been involved:

Last updated:
18 July 2019