Designs for learning

From Wikiversity


Course code: IFI7152 (entirely online, no face-to-face meetings)

Facilitator: Dr. Terje Väljataga (researcher at Tallinn University)

Credit points: 5 ECTS (minimum work load 135 hours total)

Language of instruction: English

Level of course: MA

Program: Interactive media and knowledge environment (IMKE) master program (an elective course), Institute of Informatics, Tallinn University

Time: 27.02. - 20.05. 2012

Course duration: 12 weeks, weekly minimum workload 11,5 hours.

Please keep an eye on this page for further information about this course and its tasks from February 2012 on. In the beginning of the first week there is no need to be online at certain times.

Prerequisite: Basic knowledge and skills for computer use (word processing, web browsing); willingness to show self-directed competencies, explore individually and in groups various designs for supporting learning and change together with new media possibilities, ability to read, understand and discuss about the course topics in written and oral English.

Requirements for participation: Participation requires a computer and access to Internet. There are no specific requirements for the network as far as it supports web browsing, Skype conversations and videoconferences. The participants are required to have headsets and a microphone. A camera is strongly recommended. Most of the software used in this course is free, available to everyone and easy to master the use of them.

Participation: The course is meant for IMKE (Interactive Media and Knowledge Environment master program) students as one of the elective courses. If you would like to participate in this course, add yourself to Participants page on this Wikiversity. Everyone is free to enroll and participate, but official credits and a certificate are only available via Tallinn University, Institute of Informatics. Contact the course facilitator for more information.

This e-course was supported by the European Union through the European Social Fund. (Remark: According to the rules of Wikiversity the logos of the supporters are not allowed)


Welcome to “Designs for learning” course. This course focuses on the following objectives of the IMKE curriculum by providing the students with conditions that support the development of:

  • Visionary but systematic and critical views concerning emerging issues related to knowledge environments in general and to online communities and social knowledge building in particular.
  • Competences for researching, designing, planning, implementing, distributing and managing theoretically sound knowledge environments solutions in a range of contexts.
  • Abilities that allow the students to recognize, create interdisciplinary connections, adapt and update their skills to the rapidly evolving field of knowledge environment.
  • Career profiles that are related to knowledge environments.
  • Capabilities that allow doctoral studies and academic research careers.

This is a course about thinking, more precisely about various designs for learning and change and various related concepts that will emerge during the course. The course facilitator and participants will analyze the literature and evaluate it against their own experience with the intent of developing a comprehensive understanding of knowledge environments, learning and change and their design opportunities in academic or professional contexts. During the course the work of a number of different thinkers, scholars and researchers will be discussed. The purpose of this course is to ponder about what constitutes 'design for learningʼ, and to explore the ways in which a number of designs can be used to support learning and change in constantly emerging knowledge environments.

A series of theories, concepts and ideas will be employed that help to understand different aspects of design processes. The general framework of the course defines a set of selected topics and a list of resources and material is provided. These function as signposts for an iterative process of search, practice and reflection, but otherwise the course is open for changes suggested by participants. The course participants are encouraged to complement the course, its structure, material, topics and supporting networked tools and services as the course progresses. Thus, this is not a traditional course in a sense that the facilitator provides a rigid structure and predefined topics and tasks, in which the participants are expected to be instructed. The roles of the facilitator and the participants are diffused and both the facilitator and the participants are going to explore the topic and its related concepts. The participants are expected to be interactive, work individually and carry out distant collaboration projects. During the course the participants are going to reconstruct the picture of designs for learning in the middle of the continuous digital development.

Keywords/concepts of the course content include but are not limited to:

  • design
  • design thinking
  • instructional (systems) design
  • learning and change
  • knowledge environments
  • emerging personal and mass media
  • personal learning contract procedure


The course is roughly divided into two parts:

  • Research - This part focuses on studying literature, exploring concepts and developing an understanding of various designs for learning and change
  • Design - This part focuses on planning and designing a prototype for learning and change.

In parallel to domain specific concepts, a specific stream is running through the course, which focuses on personal reflections on study processes and supporting environments. This material helps the facilitator to better understand the participants’ situation, studying habits and perceived environments and allows to redesign the course on the run. On the other hand it helps participants to analyse their study process and improve their strategies, habits and supporting environments.

The course will be conducted only online and uses a variety of individual assignment and collaboration formats.


The main objective of the course is to familiarize participants with the domain of learning designs in the context of digital transformation through individual and distance group work. In parallel to domain specific knowledge the course aims to provide opportunities for participants to develop and enhance their competencies in the following areas: self-directing individual learning projects, participating in distance group-work mediated by various networked tools and services and practicing English.


Participants will:

  • become familiar with the key concepts, competing theories and design approaches as well as the role of different networked tools and services for designing learning and change,
  • develop theoretical knowledge and practical skills for planning, designing, implementing and evaluating learning designs,
  • be able to design various learning design and change,
  • develop and advance competencies in self-directing learning projects and distance collaboration within the midst of digital transformation


The course is not conducted in a single place or environment. It is distributed across the web. The course will be supported by the selection of various networked tools and services, such as Weblogs, wiki, synchronous web-based collaboration services, videoconference service, synchronous communication tools, etc.

The course facilitator provides the following list of networked tools and services that will be used during the course:

  • General static information about the course and a study guide - course Wikiversity

It contains a large number of useful resources, short descriptions of the weekly topics that will be covered during the course, assessment criteria and a large bibliography, which lists books, articles and online resources that will be needed to consult whilst working on the topics in the course. This bibliography will be updated throughout the course by the course facilitator and also the participants are more than welcomed to complement this page with relevant literature as new material becomes available online or some of the participants have found an interesting resource to share. So, the participants are encouraged to keep checking back.

The course Wikiversity page can be used in order to find out what will be discussed each week, and, in the unlikely event that someone leaves behind the course schedule, can check what happened and what is needed to do to catch up.

Wikiversity is an open tool, thus the course information is available for everybody. The course Wikiversity page links directly to the course central Weblog (see below), where many of the weekly themes and ideas will be discussed; and to other networked tools and services that might be used in order to support this online course.

Learning materials in Wikiverisy have a free license Creative Commons BY-SA license (

  • Participants personal reflections and assignments - personal Weblogs

In order to participate in this course, a personal Weblog is required. Experienced Weblog users can use their existing ones, setting up a specific subsection (i.e. a category or use tags). Participants with no Weblogs can create one. There are numerous free blogging services, the most popular are perhaps Blogger and Wordpress. In case of many participants with no previous experience on blogging, some time will be spent on introducing it.

  • The centre of the course - course Weblog

The tasks, announcements, reflections, summaries of the weekly topics and homeworks, and emerging information about the course will be published on the course weblog on a regular basis to support the collaborative effort and to ensure a steady flow of (inter-)action. It is the participants’ responsibility to check the information flow on this Weblog on a daily basis. It is recommend the use of a Webfeed reader (either online or desktop based) for monitoring the course Weblog. If you don’t know how to do this get in contact with the facilitator or ask your peers.

  • Weblogs aggregation and monitoring - Edufeedr

Everybody has to register his/her Weblog in Edufeedr. EduFeedr is a feed reader for online courses, where each participant is using his/her personal Weblog to publish thoughts on course readings, answers to assignments and other course related posts. Course participants do not need user accounts in EduFeedr, however, they can follow a particular course in Edufeedr. In order to enroll to the course you must have a Weblog in the supported blogging platform. Currently it supports Blogger and Wordpress. As Edufeedr is currently work in progress, the participants are not obliged to create a new Weblog in case they are not using neither Blogger nor platforms. Weblogs created with other platforms wouldn't be shown in Edufeedr.

  • Videoconferences - Flashmeeting

Flashmeeting is an academic research project aimed at understanding the nature of online events and helping users to meet and work more effectively. The Flashmeeting Project includes an application based on the Adobe Flash 'plug in' and Flash Media Server. Running in a standard web browser window, it allows a dispersed group of people to meet from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Typically a meeting is pre-booked by a registered user and a url, containing a unique password for the meeting, is returned by the server. The 'booker' passes this on to the people they wish to participate, who simply click on the link to enter into the meeting at the arranged time.

  • Time scheduling - Doodle

This tool helps the participants to find the most suitable meeting time for videoconferences.

  • Sharing and managing material - Mendeley

Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that helps to add and organize documents (pdf); read and annotate documents, i.e. open pdf’s and capture thoughts through sticky notes and highlights; connect and collaborate with others online and create groups for sharing documents, annotations and notes; etc.

How to use the aforementioned tools and services, have a look at the tools tutorial for more specific information. However, the list of tools and services are rather intuitive and don’t require high level technological skills to operate with them.

The tag for this course is DFL2011 (in Twitter #DFL2011). Despite of the aforementioned networked tools and services provided by the course facilitator it is expected from participants to take their activities all over the internet. It is strongly recommended to visit other people's Web pages, Weblogs, tweets, but also to bring in new promising tools and services for supporting various activities of this course.


The course is built up in a way that it requires constant contribution during the course. The course consists of several tasks individually and in groups, which have to be completed by the end of every week. The topics covered during the course are divided into two blocks, in which first block is for reading and exploring the concepts, theories and topics and the second block is for designing a prototype in groups. In addition to the subject-related tasks, a few extra small tasks will be published weekly during the course, which focus on analysis and reflection of one’s learning progress and deficiencies.


Tasks have always a clear deadline, which is Sunday (although it is not expected that you work on the course tasks during weekends). Tasks carry 10 points. If a task is fulfilled in an “adequate” form before the deadline then all 10 points will be received. Every 24 hours passed the deadline 2 points are deducted. Five days passed the deadline means 0 points. If the task “solution” is handed in early (at least 24 hours before the assigned deadline) preliminary feedback from the facilitator can be received and re-submission is possible (if necessary) again (before the deadline) without consequences. A steady flow of tasks is wanted and to be expected.

General quality criteria for task solutions remain “undefined” (on purpose) but the facilitator keeps the right to reject solutions on the basis of obvious quality issues. As the tasks will be published in personal Weblogs, forums and in other public spaces the general criteria for them is the following: the task is completed if one is not ashamed of what he/she publishes. So considering the resources I have at my hand at a given point of time this is the maximum I can come up with. This is a quite fair criteria for adult learners in an online course. However, whenever the facilitators consider the quality of the task not acceptable, the participants will be notified. Rejected task solutions remain attached to the original task deadline.

It should be clear that the passing criteria (and point system) is supposed to define (and guide for) a “minimal” engagement level. Meeting the deadlines of accomplishing a task is participants responsibility. If one chooses to miss a task deadline and hand in the solution later is just fine. No hard feelings or allegations from the facilitator’s side. But the participants have to take responsibility for their decision! No excuses of one’s personal reasons for missed deadlines are expected.

If one has very good reasons why he/she cannot meet an assigned deadline, it is his/her responsibility to contact the facilitator immediately (and at least 24 h before the deadline). If one fails to do so the logic for dealing with missed deadlines will be applied that is described above. As the course ends with a pass/fail assessment there will be no formal examination.

A final pass/fail decision will be based on the following assessment scheme:

  • 25 % of the pass/fail is given by the facilitator for individual reading and reflecting activities in personal weblogs. To get the assessment, students must reflect upon the home-reading questions and personal experience questions. This part is based on the points collected during the course. The “pass” criteria for the course is 70% of all points one can receive until the end of the course ( for example, if 10 tasks = 100 points then 70 points = pass).
  • 25 % of the pass/fail is given by the group for its group work. This pass/fail will be added to every group member of this group.
  • 25 % of the pass/fail is given by a student himself/herself for his/her individual learning (according to the evaluation criteria developed by the student in his/her personal learning contract).
  • 25 % of the pass/fail is given by the facilitator for a group product (prototypes of learning and change).

Criteria for a group work (a design prototype):

  • Design objectives are outlined and measurable (observable)
  • Learning material is necessary and sufficient for supporting the objectives
  • Quality of learning materials (material is appropriate for the target audience)
  • Clarity of learning materials
  • Authenticity of learning materials
  • Using different media and the media is appropriate for the material presentation
  • Design is interactive that allows learners to engage in some type of activity
  • Assignments/tasks support objectives
  • Environment supports execution of the assignments/tasks
  • Intuitiveness of using the supporting learning environment
  • Monitoring and feedback options are presented
  • A learner can customise the learning environment
  • Evaluation criteria support objectives
  • Evaluation criteria are clear and measurable from the assignments/tasks
  • Objectives, content and assessment are aligned (parts of the design add up a complete picture).


The course facilitator will maintain the following levels of support and facilitation during the course:

  • control over the course Wikiversity page, which however may be edited and complemented by participants

weekly summary of the tasks’ solutions feedback to the individual tasks whenever it is considered appropriate (participants should not expect individual feedback on every task)

  • control over the course Weblog, in which the weekly topics and tasks will be posted

organising videoconferences and discussion sessions

However, being a rather flexibly structured course the facilitation from the facilitator is not limited to this level of support as participants are encouraged to develop their own course supports and to share those supports with other participants. For examples own face-to-face or online meetings and discussion groups, additional networked tools and services and more are welcomed and encouraged.


The course does not consist of a body of content participants are supposed to remember, rather, the learning in the course results from the activities participants undertake, and therefore will be different for each person.

  • WEEK 1: How to get started?
  • WEEK 2: What is design thinking? Why designs for learning and change?
  • WEEK 3: System thinking in design
  • WEEK 4: Process thinking in design
  • WEEK 5: What can we learn from good and bad designs?
  • WEEK 6: Forming groups and defining group project
  • WEEK 7: Problem and needs analysis
  • WEEK 8: Material and task development
  • WEEK 9: Forming a learning environment
  • WEEK 10: Compiling the pieces of design
  • WEEK 11: Final design presentation, group evaluation
  • WEEK 12: Individual reflection and self-assessment