Tool 4.4 – The Learning Designer Guides

Introduction to the Learning Designer

The Learning Designer tool has been produced independently by London Knowledge Lab. It has been included within the Future Classroom Toolkit as it provides a way of creating and sharing Learning Activities and Learning Stories, which some users may find helpful. The tool provides example Learning Activities and Learning Stories, which it calls "Learning Designs" or "Pedagogical Patterns". These can be used as a basis for creating your own Future Classroom Learning Activities and Learning Stories. You can also use the Learning Designer tool to create your own Learning Activities and Learning Stories, and share these with other teachers.

The Learning Designer is web-based tool to help in the creation and sharing of learning designs (similar to Future Classroom Learning Stories) and to support the integration of learning technology. It has collected over 100 designs from teachers in all sectors, and these are available for browsing, to give you an idea of what others have done, and to give you a starting point if you would like to adapt one for your own use, or create your own from scratch.

Your learning design is displayed as the sequence of activities you have created, similar to a lesson plan, and shows all its main properties you have designed in, such as topic, number of students, aims, outcomes, and duration of the learning time.

Watch the Learning Designer video tutorials playlist on the LearningDesignerCommunity YouTube channel.

Organising learning

The Learning Designer helps you create and organise a series of teaching and learning activities (TLAs) to assist in creating a set of learning experiences for the learner to move towards their learning goals. Like some other tools, the Learning Designer asks you to specify your teaching aims, and enables you to categorise your learning outcomes according to Bloom's (1956) taxonomy of educational objectives. But the Learning Designer goes further than this – it supports you in designing the teaching and learning activities that will enable learners to meet those outcomes. Drawing on Laurillard's (2012) ‘Conversational Framework', the Learning Designer prompts you to consider the type of learning experience you want for your students.

As you add each learning type you can use a drop-down list to specify: Is it learning from reading or listening? Is it learning through discussing, or practicing, or inquiring, or collaborating, or producing something?

You also specify:

  • how long each activity is meant to last, even if it's something the student is doing at home, or online.
  • how large the group size is for the activity – 1, if it's individual learning, 5 for a small group, 30 for the whole class, 5000 for a MOOC?
  • whether the teacher is present or not.

As you work the Learning Designer gives you some help. 

Analysing learning

The design tool helps you reflect about the planned teaching and learning activities, for you to determine whether or not your design is supporting the type of learning experience you have in mind. 

It gives you feedback in two ways: (i) It calculates how much learning time you have designed for students, and shows this at the top, to compare with the learning time you intended for this design; (ii) It also creates a dynamic pie-chart showing the nature of the overall learning experience you've created using the duration you specified for each learning activity. So you can see at a glance whether or not this was the type of overall learning experience you feel is appropriate. 

Having reflected on your design, you can make adjustments in just a few clicks e.g. change the type of learning and activity description, change the amount of time on an activity, change the group size, add a different resource, or even move the activity to a different learning activity. This supports the well-established iterative, reflective, design approach used by teachers from all areas of education.

Using technology effectively

The Learning Designer supports the effective use of technology in teaching and learning by asking the teacher to consider what kind of learning is required. The learning type identified gives an indication of which tool would be most appropriate to use. For example, tools such as wikis or shared documents can be used to facilitate collaboration and production, while forums or the comment function in blogs can facilitate discussion.

Sharing resources

The Learning Designer enables the teacher to attach links to Open Educational Resources (OERs) anywhere on the web. For example, a presentation on SlideShare could be attached to a Read/Watch/Listen activity; a curation tool could be attached to an Investigation activity; a worksheet on a shared drive could be attached to a Production activity.

When learning designs have been created with the Learning Designer, they can be uploaded to a user-generated directory of learning designs. You can, therefore, search for and adapt existing designs to suit their context and discipline. The Learning Design directory allows teachers to share their best ideas with other teachers. In this way, it helps build community knowledge in effective teaching practice.