Tips for starting out in learning design

We were asked: “Any advice for a new learner, just getting started in the world of LD?” 
… so we crowd-sourced answers from the team. Here’s what they said: 

Olivia said: 

Find as many opportunities to learn as possible.

I’d recommend listening to the Pedagodzilla podcast.

Clare said: 

Get to know as wide a variety of your students as you can. 

Don’t feel like you have to know all the answers, but it’s useful to know which questions to ask.  

Paul said: 

Don’t panic!  

Don’t be afraid to try something new in the way you approach a session. Innovate and reflect, I guess would be the punchier way of saying it. 

Marina said: 

Have the student/learner at the heart of your thinking and analysis. Try to imagine what you would like to experience and how you would best learn the topic and skills if you were that student. 

Carlos said: 

Study like your students: complete a course at your institution.

Katharine said: 

Look at the learning experience you’re planning through student eyes and involve students in the design.  

Make use of LD tools and approaches to guide the process. Download some free resources from the Resources section of this blog. 

Shawndra said: 

Sign up with OpenLearn and/or FutureLearn for free courses or MOOCS.  

FutureLearn also run microcredential courses in various learning/educational subjects. 

Search out and attend conferences in the field. Practice sharing is a great way to learn! 

Make a list(s) on Twitter for people, institutions, agencies, etc. that you find helpful and follow them.

Ten ways to kick off a successful online meeting

A positive start to your online group will help people feel welcome. It’s also reassuring for the facilitator to know that everyone’s ready and able to contribute. We’ve found that these simple tips can ensure everyone can play a part.

  1. Greet people as they join the meeting to help them feel welcome.
  2. Have a general chat session for the first few minutes to get everyone warmed up. Include some opportunities to increase sense of social presence, i.e. chat about themselves or where they are.
  3. Alternatively, give participants a small task to do at the start, such as introducing themselves in the text chat.
  4. Use the participant list as a means of getting people to introduce themselves and get used to speaking in the room. This is also a good audio check.
  5. Set ground rules and expectations at the beginning of the session – for example, raise a hand if you want to speak, type comments in the text chat – to help people understand how and when to interact.
  6. Aim to have two helpers if you can: one to check the text chat and one to handle technical queries.
  7. Look out for anyone coming in late – perhaps set a reminder to check if anyone is new at regular intervals.
  8. Remind people to turn off their mics when they’re not talking and remember that you have the power to mute them if they don’t follow the instructions. Even for professors!
  9. If you’re recording the session, check that people are happy about this.
  10. Plan to use breakout rooms to prompt participants to share ideas.

Skills development is most effective when…

  • It is fully embedded in the teaching and learning of (inter)disciplinary content (reflects a contextual and epistemological view of skills)
  • At the same time, it is perceived as meaningful and relevant to students’ current and future lives (transferable, flexible)
  • Students are apprenticed into the conventions, techniques, styles and approaches of their field(s) of study (they know what is considered appropriate and can meet normative standards)
  • At the same time, students can explore, critique and creatively develop their skills in directions which are unique to them.

Recreated with kind permission of Jackie Tuck, Senior Lecturer – WELS

Supporting students in collaborative online activities

Collaborative learning activities build students’ critical thinking skills and encourage them to reflect on their learning. However, students can struggle to engage with them if they don’t feel supported. Use these steps to build in support for students before, during and after online collaborative activities.
The steps are based on a study by Zheng et al. (2015)

Before – Explain and guide
  • Explain the purpose of, and the benefits of completing the activities by linking them clearly to learning outcomes.
  • Remind students when they need to be available for this work, and to flag to the group if there are periods when they won’t be available.
  • Provide preparatory activities to build up students’ skills and experience with group working.
  • Provide opportunities to practice using any technology involved to help students build confidence.
  • Provide some examples of finished work from previous cohorts, or provide one or more example answers that students can use as a reference.
During – Reassure
  • Make sure there’s a mechanism for identifying and supporting students if they get stuck.
  • Ensure that students are clear on how to ask for help or clarification, and make sure they feel comfortable requesting guidance.
  • Keep an eye on the mood of the students and find ways to keep morale high.
  • Be ready to point out interesting findings coming out from other groups or even set up some element of competition or reward if morale drops.
After – Relax and reflect
  • Ensure there’s an opportunity for students toreflect on their experience. Usually this is via assessment, but this could be done in other ways.
  • Provide a bit of breathing space this will have been an intense experience for some students.
  • Don’t launch them straight into another high-stakes activity.
  • Consider providing a way for students to share their finished product with the rest of the cohort.
  • Reiterate how this has helped with the learning outcomes, skills and with their PDP employability.
  • Provide opportunities for tutor and peer follow up.

Arang. B. Niya M & Warschauw, M (2015) ‘Wikis and collaborative learning in higher education’ Technology, Pedagogy and Education, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 357–74