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Designing for sustainable learning experiences in a post-digital world


Merja Alanko-Turunen

Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 30.03.2022

Embracing design thinking has been seen as one of the answers for the increasingly complex requirements of higher education (Zhu et al., 2016). It has been pointed out that designers have frameworks, systemic work processes and methods for processing complex issues, dealing with contradictory demands, redefining problems as well as for collaborating with various partners – whether they are students or other stakeholders (Goodyear, 2015).

Learning design or designing for learning draws from various research traditions, so the terminology can be challenging to define. Whichever definition is applied, the most important thing is that designing for learning provides pedagogical frameworks, tools, and work processes which can be applied to enhance the learning experiences offered to students of higher education digitally and offline. Design for learning entails not only the design of tasks for students to do but also social and physical environments in which to learn.

Post-digital transitions and transformations

We now live on verge of a post-digital world where digital technology is no longer separate, virtual, ‘other’ to a ‘natural’ human and social life. The post-digital approach does not pursue technical innovation or improvement but considers digitization as something that has already happened and thus might be further reconfigured (more Jandrić & Hayes, 2020).

Therefore, we have added the prefix post-digital in the title of the blog text in a similar vein as Sinclair and Hayes (2018) who point out that the prefix post (-) signals also that we have something to discuss and probe into. Thus, in discussing post-digital ideas of education, we are looking more for a shift in educational culture, where educators think in the same way about pedagogical activities — critically questioning their designs and practices. Educators should design, implement and assess digital learning processes and environments which underline cognitive, emotional, motivational, and social aspects of learning.

A need for understanding emotions and AI in learning

The emotional influence on learning is getting more important. Students often learn better when they feel that their educator cares. Students wish to be treated as individuals, with their own interests, and a sense of control over their learning. Because of these emotional and personal aspects of learning, students need to relate in some way to their educator in a digital learning environment as well. At one level, learning can be seen as a complex activity where only a relatively minor part of the process can be effectively digitally enhanced while at a personal level it is an intensely human activity that benefits from relationships and social interaction. (Bates et al., 2020.)

One of the most pressing questions for designing for learning is also how to do it in the world of AI. As Carvalho et al. (2022) underline a critical educational challenge involves figuring out how to support young generations to develop the capabilities that they will need to adapt to, and innovate in, a world with AI. Educators and learners should be involved not only in learning but also in co-designing for learning in an AI world. Furthermore, they together should explore knowledge, goals, and actions that could help people shape future AI scenarios, and learn to deal with high degrees of uncertainty.

An invitation to join the discussion

Haaga-Helia Business Innovation Conference (HHBIC2022) brings together researchers from all over the world to discuss the opportunities, challenges, preconditions, achievements, and learnings related to green and digital transitions (twin transition) on November 24, 2022.

We invite you to participate with a research paper on themes that cover e.g.

  • designing for learning in digital environments
  • digital curriculum design in HE
  • digital module design
  • improving digital learning experiences with design thinking
  • design practices in HE
  • sustainable learning design in HE
  • pedagogical models for digital learning in HE
  • learning design processes and scripts in HE
  • digital pedagogy design principles
  • designing digital modules for specific subject domains
  • designing sustainable digital assessment
  • HE teachers as digital learning designers and
  • HE learning designers as a digital community of practice.

We are looking forward to hearing your viewpoints and experiences!


Bates, T., Cobo, C., Mariño, O., & Wheeler, S. (2020). Can artificial intelligence transform higher education? International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 17, 42.

Carvalho, L., Martinez-Maldonado, R., Tsai, Y.-S., Markauskaite, L., & de Laat, M. (2022). How can we design for learning in an AI world? Computers and Education: Artificial Intelligence, 3, 100053.

Goodyear, P. (2015). Teaching as design. HERDSA Review of Higher Education, 27–50.

Jandrić, P., & Hayes, S. (2020). Postdigital We-Learn. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 39(3), 285–297.

Sinclair, C., & Hayes, S. (2019). Between the Post and the Com-Post: Examining the Postdigital “Work” of a Prefix. Postdigital Science and Education, 1, 119–131.

Zhu, Z. T., Yu, M. H., & Riezebos, P. (2016). A research framework of smart education. Smart Learning Environments, 3(1).