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Using learning design tools in online module planning

How do you start an online course creation in the middle of a global pandemic, when you need to collaborate with over 30 people from six different educational institutions in three countries?


Jani Siirilä

yliopettaja, vaikuttava ammatillinen pedagogiikka
principal lecturer, engaging vocational pedagogy
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 18.11.2021

We started to create an online module in the SuFi-project in autumn 2020. Now a year has passed and since all pilot schools are at least halfway through the first implementations, we are able to share our experiences about how we did it.

The backbone for the asynchronous project communication and file sharing was Microsoft Teams. We used Teams also for some pop-up meetings but for larger workshops and collaborative planning sessions we used Zoom, mainly because in the beginning of the project only Zoom supported breakout rooms.

We started the SuFi module ideation using the Fitech-model. The frame was added to project Teams platform, so that anyone who is responsible of module planning could contribute. We had to clarify for ourselves why these modules are relevant right now? Eventually we used those ideas when we wrote module descriptions. Then we identified the target group of the course. Questions such as what motivates the learner and what is difficult for the group in this theme were reflected.

The ideation of the module core content and learning outcomes were divided into four categories:

  • Prerequisites – Skills and knowledge that the learner must have when the course starts. Before the course learner is able to…
  • Must know – Core content, that needs to be learned. After the course learner is able to…
  • Should know – Supplementary knowledge adding details and practical applications.
  • Nice to know – Specific knowledge that deepends the competence in a certain topic

As a result of the ideation phase, we were able to list a core content and learning outcomes for following three 5 etcs modules:

  1. Sustainable development and climate change
  2. Sustainable finance
  3. Future megatrends and vocational competences

After that we had three collaborative design workshops online where we used the ABC Learning Design method (Arena, Blended, Connected) as a basis for module development. An original A1 sized paper canvas was converted as online canvas into Flinga platform. Also the original paper cards presenting different learning types card (orientation, acquisition, collaboration, investigation, practice, production, discussion) were converted in digital format. Using these tools three groups, each concentrating for one module worked in breakout rooms.

The benefit of chosen learning design method was that it enabled us to collaboratively design and identify more specifically weekly topics and respective learning outcomes with learning types and preliminary ideas of their implementation methods.

You can take a closer look to each module canvas by clicking the module title:

Digital platforms open new opportunities for us to work collaboratively towards a common goal even if the circumstances, such as COVID-pandemic do not allow us to meet face-to-face. What we experienced was that working online requires an active role for the lead partner. That means to ensure that the project partners involved can be heard and the chosen digital platforms enables everyone to take part in the module planning equally.

It´s challenging to assess whether the outcome of the modules should have been different if we had met each other face-to-face. Working online really compels everyone to focus on subject, that´s for sure. But sometimes lobbying may create the best solution for a wicked problem.

We also learned that when working online, the preparation work for planning workshops takes even more time than preparations for live gatherings. But no matter in which format you run learning design process, it is an essential prerequisite for a successful course creation.

The School of vocational teacher education coordinates the Sustainability in Finance (SuFi) Interreg project during 2020-2022. In this project a vocational Sustainability in Finance open online module (15 etcs) will be developed for vocational education and training (VET).