Sunday, 30 May 2010

The place of design in learning

Last Thursday (27th May) I took part in a very interesting ‘LearnChat’ (#lrnchat) via Twitter about the place of design in learning. Since then I have thought a bit more about this topic.


If you want to see the transcript of the latest #lrnchat or even join in next week then go to for full details of when the ‘chats’ take place and what you need to do.

The nature of design

I think it goes without saying that ‘design’ pervades all of our lives, whether it is in our homes, the architecture of buildings (as well as in them), the equipment we use, the layout of villages, towns and cities, to name but a few.

But so does or should ‘design’ pervade all aspects of what we provide to learners, irrespective of whether that provision is for training, development or educational purposes, and regardless of the means by which the learning is delivered (eg face-to-face, classroom-based, blended, e-Learning, paper-based learning and so on).

What is ‘design’

Whilst various definitions exist, here are two useful ones from a L&D point of view:

§ ‘a plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment or other object before it is built or made’

§ ‘purpose, planning or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact or material object’.

Design in L&D

We already have and use the term ‘instructional designer’ which for me covers both definitions provided above and which explains why such a role is both a crucial and fundamental aspect all educational, training and development provision. However, whilst I am an instructional designer, I am not a graphic designer, an artist or, even, a programmer! Yet, I would contest that all these roles are examples of design in learning.

In all the forms in which learning takes place, the look and feel of what is, or should be presented to users must be a primary consideration. I’m not just talking about e-Learning here, I’m talking about all aspects regardless of their means of delivery.

A neglected area?

As far as I’m concerned, learning design per se has been a much neglected area and it continues to be so. From the ubiquitous ‘handout’ to the ‘e-Learning’ course, all elements and facets of design should figure prominently. Just as much most of us like and appreciate the aesthetic aspects of our world, the same is also true for our learning experiences.

Essentially, anything which helps me to learn, be it formally or informally, has to be good and this includes the design, in all its formats, which has gone into it.

The place of design in learning? It must be a given but I think we have some way still to go to prove it!


Want2learn said...

Under-valued certainly, Judith, yet there's also the next step: designing in the freedom to explore. We both know that setting and managing the parameters for that is endlessly varied, challenging, rewarding.

Judith Christian-Carter said...

You make a really good point and I agree with you; that is, indeed, the next step but first we've got to master the initial stage. However, I have every confidence that we will at some point. Thanks very much.

彥君彥君 said...

you always know the right thing to say!............................................................

Anonymous said...

Learning makes life sweet.............................................................

russell.anderson-williams said...

What a fantastic blog. I have just started a role as Training Designer after being focused mainly on delivery for over 4 years. I used to work as a graphic designer in a previous life so I am very excited about being able to glue my 2 loves together and really stretch the way training is delivered and thought about. Maybe I should start my own blog on the subject?!

Judith Christian-Carter said...

Many thanks for the great compliment. I wish you all the very best in your new career. You have a nice combination of skills and experience so I think you should be very successful. Designing interactive and engaging online learning, especially e-Learning is a considerable challenge but it's one I love because it can be so amazingly fulfilling. Blogging is also a great way of helping others by passing on your views and experiences - go for it and let me have the URL.