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Can learning be designed?

In this article, Dr Chie Adachi opens up a discussion about digital learning design, including backward design and the outcome-driven curriculums.
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© Deakin University

Some say that learning itself cannot be designed, but can only be designed for.

Last week, we looked at Siemen’s work on Connectivism.

This theory proposes that people constantly (re)create new meaning via networks mediated by digital tools that shape and reshape the kinds of learning that can emerge.

In (digital) learning where sustainable change is intended to occur as a result, this requires the design or (to borrow Siemens’ term and an idea we’ll look at in more detail later this week) curation of learning environments, sequences and tasks so that the (online) encounters enable learners to achieve intended outcomes.

Outcome-driven curriculum

Curriculum is one formal way of articulating the rationale and patterns of how learning is intended to develop.

A 2009 UNESCO report identified the importance of outcome-driven curriculum in higher education.

This report emphasises the ability to measure what students will achieve in terms of outcomes as a result of learning and teaching processes.

This also holds relevance for the existence, quality and assurance of educational institutions, in measuring and communicating the impacts and outputs of teaching relating to student success (eg graduate employability and/or career progression).

Backward design

In their influential work, Understanding by Design, Wiggins and McTighe (2005) proposed a model of backward design based on the idea that teaching starts with an end goal (ie student achievements or outcomes) in mind.

Their framework identifies three stages of development, which are outlined below.

Backward design
Source: Adapted from Wiggins, G.P. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Your task

Reflect on the most exciting learning design project you’ve worked on or a good example you’ve seen.

What was it, what approach did it use and why was it effective? If you worked on this, what was your contribution?

Use the comments to share your examples and discuss your insights.

© Deakin University
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