Design for Online Learning?

The first course I will be teaching is called Design for Online Learning, the aim is Ÿ

To provide knowledge & understanding of the principles of online course design and development.

It’s a course that has been offered for several years now and I don’t think the title or aim have been updated recently.

Let’s take the title one term at a time


Clearly this is pedagogic design rather than visual design (though there is a section on story boarding, and I might work in something on wireframes). One of the resources referenced, the Jisc publication Effective Practice with e-Learning says:

Bringing about effective learning, however, is a complex and creative process which involves identifying objectives, recognising the needs of the learners, selecting the most suitable approach, and then striking an appropriate balance between e-learning and other modes of delivery when working within a technology-rich context (one in which practitioners can choose between e-learning and traditional options). In this guide, this process has been termed ‘designing for learning’.

page 11, my emphasis


I’m not sure that this is entirely helpful in the context of a course offered in Information Systems. To be clear, it’s not that we offer courses that cover other modes of delivery such as mobile learning or blended learning. I think the term “online learning” dates from time when “online” was considered to be something new and distinctive. “Online learning” was just one name in the long chain of what we call what we do, staring with something like computer based learning and computer aided instruction/learning through learning technology, e-learning, blended learning, to technology enhanced learning. I’m not even sure what counts as online anymore: does everything become online when all devices have network capabilities? Is an app for formative testing that is downloaded to a phone or an interactive ebook out of scope if it doesn’t use that networking capability. I don’t think so. The reason I don’t think they are out of scope is because it is clearly the learning that is important, and that  does not need to happen online.


Groups of terms relevant to education roughly in order of relevance: learning, assessment, and teaching, which are underpinned by psychology, pedagogy and philosophy; then policy, admisitration and accreditation, which are informed by politics, management theory, HR practice such as staff development and recruitment.
Various topics relevant to education, those which are more relevant to the course are larger and bolder

Yes, it will be important to cover something about how learning happens and what can encourage it, which means covering something about education more widely. The focus will be on teaching learning and assessment, (rather than other activities in education such as policy, administration and accreditation) but these are underpinned by research into pedagogy. psychology and philosophy.

So what is it about?

Well, I hope that the course will allow students to make a start on being a learning technologist, as defined by ALT

Learning technology is the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment.

Learning technologists are people who are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology.