Building aspirations: embedding employability into learning design

Many students choose to study with the OU to build new job-related skills or take a step up in their career. But plenty more benefit from the employability focus of our modules even if they’re not studying for career reasons. That’s because we see employability as more than just about building skills – we see it a set of capabilities and achievements that support students in developing their careers, raising their aspirations and enhancing their contribution to society. Continue reading “Building aspirations: embedding employability into learning design”

Mix, stir then blend gently: co-creating a remote community of practice

If you read our last blog post, you’ll know that like most people, we’ve made some changes to the way we work here in the learning design team thanks to COVID19. One of these has been a change to our community of practice. Before lockdown, this was informal – members of the learning design team would learn by observing one another, discussing challenges and sharing useful tips and resources. Much of this took place in the office kitchen. Continue reading “Mix, stir then blend gently: co-creating a remote community of practice”

A virtual biscuit tin: creating a community of practice for learning designers in lockdown

It wasn’t just students who faced a sudden change in how they were learning in March when the UK locked down. Learners in the workplace were affected too – including our learning design team here at the Open University. We were dispersed to our homes by lockdown and overnight, lost our ability to learn from one another.

Learning is central to our jobs. We need to know about new research so we can give the best advice to module teams. From a practical point of view, much of our work relies on practice sharing – discussing what works, finding new ways to make an impact, and checking in on how others handle tricky situations. Plus, our four colleagues who joined just before or during lockdown needed to learn the day-to-day essentials of their jobs.

Lockdown posed us a problem: how could we share our practice at a distance? The answer emerged over a socially distanced cuppa. Continue reading “A virtual biscuit tin: creating a community of practice for learning designers in lockdown”

Sharing our resources for designing online learning

Over the past few months of lockdown we’ve received a number of calls for advice from the sector and we’ve participated in a number of webinars as well as delivering workshops for various external clients.

As time has progressed we’ve aimed to make sure that as many of these resources as possible are shared and available through our blog. In this post, we will provide an outline of what’s available, all of which you can find on this blog from the resources link on the left hand side.


There are currently three templates we’ve made available:

Student profile template. We use this template to capture the profiles of likely students on a new module. In doing so, we aim to work from data and input from module team members to ensure these are as realistic as possible. These are then drawn upon for considering the design challenges for the module as well as providing reference points when designing specific activities further down the line.

Activity planner template. This template is an offline version enabling teams to capture the activities and activity types used in each week of their module. Alongside the activities it includes space to note which learning outcomes are being covered that week along with details of any assessment. Keeping the learning outcomes and assessment clearly visible helps designers and educators to ensure alignment between the activities for each week with the learning outcomes.

Activity design template.  This is a more detailed design template prompting designers to consider the purpose and structure for individual activities, including mapping out the steps of an activity. Mapping the steps out clearly is a great way of identifying complexities and challenges for students and to help with ironing them out before the finished activity goes live.

Guidance (these open in a new tab)

Collaborative activities booklet

Four types of quiz and how to use them in online learning

Managing student workload in distance learning

Preparing to support participants in online meetings

Six ways to gather student feedback

Supporting students in collaborative online activities

Ten uses for online rooms

Ten ways to kick off a successful online meeting

These guidance pieces are focused on specific aspects of online learning. Particular areas we have worked hard on at the OU include developing approaches to collaborative online activities and online quizzes. The booklet on collaborative online activities provides detailed guidance based on research and referring to examples from OU modules. The remaining guidance pieces are shorter infographics with key points on a specific aspect of learning design.

Between them these templates and guidance should provide for a good starting point in designing for online. The templates providing the framework for design, and the guidance then providing advice on specific approaches to online learning. In addition to these, we work to the ICEBERG principles, which focus on designing learning to support student retention.

As a team, we run external workshops and can work with you if you need more in depth support. In the meantime though, please feel free to use as many of these resources as you wish, remembering to reference us in any work that you do. We would also be interested in hearing about any specific design work that you undertake using the templates and guidance so do get in touch if you have used any of these!