Information Services

Learning Design

Details of the developing Edinburgh Learning Design roadmap (ELDeR) at the University of Edinburgh.

Learning Design at the University of Edinburgh

The role of educators needs to adapt from distributors of knowledge to designers of learning experiences.

Mor and Craft, 2012

A learning design service is being developed and implemented at the University of Edinburgh. It will be available from June 2016. Details of all the activities leading up to the service are below. The learning design service will be able to directly support any course or programme (online or on campus) that is being developed or reviewed. Many courses in the University have already engaged with learning design workshops and they are detailed below. 


Learning Design - Scoping Project

Learning design is the process of designing learning experiences (planning, structuring, sequencing) through facilitated activities that are pedagogically informed, explicit, and make better use of technologies in teaching.

Fiona Hale, adapted from various

The learning design scoping project (carried out March 2015 to September 2015) recommended developing reusable and collaborative learning design as a new University service within Information Services (IS), which positions the learning design framework as a scaffold, the support staff as facilitators, and the academic staff as learning designers, with an active community of practice and a clear positive impact on key University drivers. Most importantly, the recommended learning design process will prioritise the design of student learning experiences over the development of content (as Mor and Craft, 2012, highlighted).

The facilitators of the framework will be trained and located within Information Services, Institute of Academic Development (IAD), and locally within Schools. The design workshops will be collaborative, team based, embedded

Collaborative by nature
Learning Design - Evaluation Project

Information Services’ Innovation Funds were secured in October 2015 to evaluate the leading three learning design frameworks in the UK through active use with teaching programmes, to collaboratively select the best fit for development at Edinburgh, with the overall goal of adapting the most suitable into an Edinburgh-specific learning design framework.

Because of the collaborative nature of the process, workshop participants were invited from the course team, programme team, IAD, IS-Educational Design and Engagement, IS-Support Librarian group, student body, and colleagues who could act as critical peers.


Evaluation workshops:

Programme / Team Course Mode and Level Facilitator and UK Framework Dates
Geosciences (Dave Reay) and Education (Pete Higgins) Online Sustainability and Social Responsibility UG,  Online Julie Usher, CAIeRO Oct 25th / 26th 2015
ECCI (Andy Kerr) and Business School Training programme for leaders and executives: policy, impact, business CPD, Online Joanna Wild, Learning Designer Nov 13th 2015
Staff Development / EDE Resources for engagement Staff Development Lisette Toetenel, OULDI Nov 24th 2015
MSc in Public Health Introduction to Health Promotion PG, Distance, 11 Julie Usher, CAIeRO and Fiona Hale (developing ELDeR) Jan 25th / 26th 2016

[The workshop] was very well directed and helped us improve our course design elements immensely. We though we were already at quite a well developed stage, but the workshop was vital in clarifying the student pathways through the course, the time requirements, and the assessment structures.

Prof Dave Reay, Chair in Technology Enhanced Science Education (and course lead on Online Sustainability and Social Responsibility)

The University of Northampton-based CAIeRO framework (which is CC-NC-SA licensed) was chosen by academics and support staff as the best fit. The focus on designing of learning experiences over development of content; the structured format of the two day workshop, with ability to adapt based on each course design team, providing consistency and flexibility; and the ability to use CAIeRO for on campus and online development, programme development, and different levels of courses (UG and PG, for example) were the key reasons for CAIeRO being selected. In line with the findings of Mor and Craft, 2012, the CAIeRO framework expertly combines the following domains – subject knowledge, pedagogical theory, technological know-how and practical experience - while also allowing for innovation in all of these domains.

A reflective blog post from Imogen Scott, LTW Division of IS, called "Shadowing the CAIeRO" is available here


ELDeR development

Funding was secured in October 2015 from the digital education task group (as part of the  Learning and Teaching Committee) to adapt and develop the chosen CAIeRO framework into a University of Edinburgh framework for learning design. This specific part of the project runs from February 2016 to June 2016 and allows for the Learning Design team to develop the Edinburgh framework and to facilitate 3 learning design workshops with online courses. The framework will be evaluated and adjusted across each workshop, with the aim of having a more finalised framework by the end of the third workshop which will then be launched as a Learning Design Service. Training for facilitators across the University, specifically within IS, IAD and locally within schools, will also take place within this timeframe.

At the heart of the Edinburgh Learning Design Roadmap (ELDeR) is the design of student learning experiences, where student feedback and assessment literacies are given top priority: Early in the process, the workshop participants will be asked to jointly consider what they want students to be able to do by the end of the course (from Wiggins and McTighe, 2005, an existing part of CAIeRO), and how the students will know they are getting there. Locating this activity early in the workshop (before formal learning outcomes and assessment design) places feedback at the core of the course design process (in line with University strategic drivers).

The design and development of learning outcomes, feedback opportunities, and assessment points will bleed together, forming an iterative process where there is congruence (see McCune & Hounsell, 2005) between all three, rather than one driving the others. By considering what students should be able to do by the end of the course and how they will know that they are getting there, a foundation is set for authentic assessment that aligns with learning outcomes.

In the latter half of day one, storyboarding will be used to help the design team map a student’s path through the course. It is strongly recommended that design teams bring their course to an ELDeR workshop before official validation, if possible. This enables workshop ideas and outputs to be implemented as soon as possible, making a tangible connection between the workshop and the course development and implementation.

I have been exposed to these sorts of discussions before in various University forums and courses, [but] it was not in a format which was helpful in applying it to practice.

Dr Ruth McQuillan, Programme Co-director, MSc in Public Health
CAIeRO Workshop, Jan 26th 2016

ELDeR workshops will be run over two days and will have the following structure:

Day 1:

Stage 1: the course blueprint (mission, learning outcomes, assessment and feedback)

Stage 2: storyboarding

Day 2:

Stage 3: rapid prototyping in the VLE of some learning activities within the storyboard

Stage 4: critical friend evaluation of VLE prototype

Stage 5: adjust and review from feedback

Stage 6: creating an action plan

Stage 7: reflecting on the workshop in relation to the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) model for HEA accreditation.


ELDeR pilot workshops:

Programme Course Mode and Level Facilitator Dates
MSc Clinical Education Principles of Teaching and Learning (core) PG,  Distance, 11 Fiona Hale and Ellen Spaeth April 26th / 27th 2016
MSc Public Health Systematics Review (core) PG, Distance, 11 Cristina Matthews  May 3rd 2016 (1 day trial)
Bachelor of Nursing Community Nursing (core) UG, On Campus Fiona Hale and Robert Chmielewski May 16th / 17th 2016
MSc Global Challenges Pg Certificate in Global Development (core) PG, Distance, 11 Ellen Spaeth and Susan Greig May 30th / 31st 2016


ELDeR service - workshops*:

* Please note: Fiona is unavailable to facilitate July 2016 (because of conference, travel and annual leave).

Programme / Course Challenge Mode and Level Course leader / tutor By when
MSc Pain Management (Brain course) New: Tutor new to online teaching. Scaling up the course numbers. PG, Distance, 11 David Hampton, Sarah Henderson August 2016
MSc Family Medicine Review: Content focus, needs design of activities, not just delivering content PG, Distance, 11 Robin Ramsey August 2016
Pg Cert Academic Practice Core programme redesign PG, On Campus Hazel Christie - TBC For AY 2017/2018

McCune, V. and Hounsell, D., 2005. The development of students’ ways of thinking and practising in three final-year biology courses. Higher Education,49(3), pp.255-289.

Mor, Y. and Craft, B., 2012. Learning design: reflections upon the current landscape. Research in learning technology, 20.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design (Expanded 2nd ed.). Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (ASCD).



More information

For more information about Learning Design development at the University of Edinburgh please contact in Learning, Teaching, Web Services Division, Information Services.