A Shift Toward Learning Design: What It Isn't, Why It's Needed, and If It's Right for You

At the university level, course design has traditionally been easy for faculty to manage on their own—until, that is, digital technologies began to play a role and online courses started to take off. What’s more, curricula are growing more complex and variable, employers are broadening their expectations, and students are required to engage intelligently with challenging issues such as social justice and human rights. One way of acknowledging the uniqueness of instructional design in higher education is by marking the shift from instructional design to what is being called “learning design.” As a result, there is a growing demand for pedagogical design experts—instructional designers, learning engineers, and learning designers—to help deepen and enrich the learning experience for students in colleges and universities. In such an evolving and unpredictable landscape, the formal frameworks of instructional design—such as strict adherence to the ADDIE model—may need to be broadened. Instructional design has long filled a particular need in K-12 education, government and corporate settings, but it was not until the past decade that it began playing a prominent role in higher education. Because online courses in particular are developed in advance, professors must predict where their students might become confused and then design a full range of materials, engagements, and activities to address those issues. Traditional instructional design—which emphasizes learning outcomes—is one way to support this work, but the needs of higher education increasingly call for an approach that is less structured and more adaptive. Students need tools and knowledge that allow them to navigate their future roles with agility. One way of acknowledging the uniqueness of instructional design in higher education is by marking the shift from instructional design to what...

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