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Planning a learning design using the Conversational Framework

Dr Eileen Kennedy explains the importance of learning design for online and blended learning.

If you are intending to move your teaching to a more blended (a mix of face-to-face and online learning) or wholly online version it’s useful to plan your students’ work for a typical week, starting from your current plan.

We refer to this process as ‘learning design’, because the focus is on the student’s whole learning experience in relation to a particular set of learning outcomes, not just on the periods they are with the teacher. In this short video Eileen Kennedy explains why it’s a distinctive approach.

Students’ work on your course has to dovetail with their work on all the other courses they are taking, so a good learning design for a week is clear about how much time they should typically spend, and when.


In this exercise you can begin with your current plan for your face-to-face (f2f) teaching, OR use one of the examples in Downloads, for older or younger students, and adapt that. This will help with making the following plan, which has the detail you need to think through the conversion to online:

  1. Estimate how many hours in a week your students should be learning altogether, including class work and independent study.
  2. Read through the examples in Downloads, in the Word version if you can open it. Then adapt one, or use the template (Word version so that you can edit it), putting in the detail and extra rows for your own context. All this data is important for converting these teaching-learning activities to online.
  3. Complete the table by listing the learning activities and appropriate learning type for each one.
  4. Include the time students should spend on each different type of activity in sequence: e.g. preparation, class work, group work, individual work, assignments/homework, etc. It is important to include all the work they do, whether in class or not, as this will play an important part in planning the online version.
  5. Assign one or more of the learning types to each activity, and any digital tools you currently use.
  6. If the learning types in the Conversational Framework are not clear, here is a screencast talking through the theory of how they work. The script and slides are available in Downloads.
  7. Use the first column to specify the current scheduling of synchronous (scheduled) and asynchronous (can be done any time) activities.
  8. The learning times should add up to their total learning time for the week. This plan will form the basis for the Step where you design how to scaffold that learning time for your students online.

Of course, students may not follow your guidance at all, but if you offer a default study guide it will be of value to those who do not plan their study time well, and also indicates the amount and type of work you expect from them.


What did you and your colleagues learn from the lockdown experience of teaching online? Or, if this is all new to you, please say what you are most worried, and/or excited about now. If you see another comment you want us to respond to, please ‘Like’ it, and then we can see which ones to prioritise in our responses.

What difficulties have you found in matching a learning type to each activity? Can you reply helpfully to others who have found it difficult?

This article is from the free online

Blended and Online Learning Design

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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