Is a well designed MOOC a cure for teachers work overload?

No 1. in a series of posts by Professor Christina Preston, MirandaNet Fellowship; partner of the EU HandsOn ICT project.


Some elearning experiences are not as good as they might be for the students because the MOOC software designers have not paid enough attention to effective pedagogical practices.

In this context piloting the Learning Designer software as part of the EU HandsOn ICT project is invaluable for the team because the tool is grounded in the classroom pedagogies that have been identified over many years (2014) by Professor Diana Laurillard and her team from the at the London, Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education, University of London. In particular, this tool reflects the design cycle for teaching: Laurillard believes that recording and analyzing this practitioner design has should have the same status as an academic paper about the theory of learning.


Above is an example of a teacher’s design for a lesson about interpreting Tudor portraits. As the teacher builds up the design they can see in a pie chart how the learning experience is spread between different approaches like information transmission, learning independently and collaboratively.  The teacher is prompted to consider appropriate groups sizes for different activities, resources, whether the teacher needs to be there and how much the students can learn from each other. As the teacher designs the lesson the calculations about the learning experience are calculated dynamically and represented visually.

The development of this software was prompted by the knowledge that the teaching workload is increasing in terms of:

  • Planning for how students will learn in the mix of the physical, digital and social learning spaces designed for them
  • Curating and adapting existing content resources
  • Designing activities and resources for all types of active learning
  • Personalised and adaptive teaching that improve traditional methods
  • Providing flexibility in blended learning options
  • Guiding and nurturing large cohorts of students
  • Using learning technologies to improve scale AND outcomes.

In the face of these challenges Laurillard and her team contend that institutions and teachersare not typically planning for the increased teaching workload implied by these learning benefits. In addition, many practitioners and their institutions do not yet see the need to collaborate in order to innovate with technology.

Learning Designer is intended to alert teachers and lecturers to the potential of  innovation in their own practice when they make full use of online learning whilst dealing with workload issues.

Teaching as a Design Science: Building pedagogical patterns for learning and technology (Routledge, 2012)


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