• Dave Foord
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The learning design paradox

I have spent the day at a JISC event looking at learning design tools (tools that help a tutor to design learning activities), and I have come to realise that this area is a victim of a self inflicted paradox. From what I can make out, most of the tools were developed by universities so by this very fact have (not deliberately) developed to suit the HE style of learning and teaching rather than the FE style.

The sector that would benefit most from ‘good’ learning design is the FE sector where differences in the design of the learning can make a huge difference to the learning that takes place. Unfortunately the people teaching in the FE sector do not have the time to engage in these tools whilst teaching 25ish hours per week, as well as doing all the other things that they are doing.

In the HE sector on the other hand, the staff involved in teaching do have more time (and I can make this comment having worked in both sectors) – however the benefits to the students are less than for FE.

Secondly (in my opinion) the only way that learning design can really work is if it replaces current practices in terms of lesson planning. In FE lesson planning is a major part of the process and although the range of detail in ones lesson plan varies from not very much to very detailed, lesson plans are accepted as being a major part of the inspection process. In HE on the other hand, lesson planning isn’t the norm so they are better positioned to receive a new process like learning design, but the fact that there is in the main a reluctance (and some HE lecturers are clearly insulted if you mention lesson planning to them) to adopt lesson planning then I guess there will be a similar reluctance to accept learning design.

So in summary

FE would benefit most, and would be more receptive to this idea, but the staff won’t have time, the tools are not aimed at them, and adopting them would require someone to challenge the way that inspection looks at lesson planning

HE would benefit (but not as much), and the tools are better suited to them, and they have more time, but there is likely to be a reluctance from many people involved.

This may sound like I am being negative about the whole thing, but I am not personally I am keen on anything that raises the standards of learning teaching and assessment, I just feel that the tools nor the sectors are ready for each other yet. It is important for research in this area to continue and maybe in a few years time, the tools and the sectors will be ready.


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