Designed for learning

learning – teaching – research – design – technology

Design Inquiry of Learning

The Design Inquiry model (see Fig. 1) combines the iterative structure of educational design research with the principles of inquiry learning . Educational practitioners follow a cycle of:

  1. Defining their project
  2. Investigating the context in which it is situated and identifying appropriate techno-pedagogical theories
  3. Reviewing relevant cases
  4. Conceptualizing a solution
  5. Implementing a prototype of that solution,
  6. Evaluating it
  7. Reflecting on the process.


Fig. 1. The Design Inquiry model

Although this cycle is presented as a neat linear progression, in reality project work is messy and iterative. Practitioners revisit various points as their understanding evolves.

Diana Laurillard (2013) argues that teaching should be repositioned as a design science, in line with paradigmatic distinction of between natural science which describes how the world is, and design science which is concerned with how it should be. Ideally, we would want teachers to adopt a design science stance towards their practice. However, it would be unrealistic to expect practitioners to allocate the resources required for rigorous and systematic scientific investigation. Instead, we propose a model of design inquiry – a projection of the ideal of design science into realistic settings.

define learning design as “the act of devising new practices, plans of activity, resources and tools aimed at achieving particular educational aims in a given situation”. In that sense, every learning design is a hypothesis about learning: when we design a learning activity, resource or tool we are implicitly claiming that within a given context, learners engaging with the designed artefact will achieve particular educational aims. Such a claim can be the seed hypothesis for a process of inquiry.

Recent studies (e.g. Voogt et al, 2011) demonstrate how training teachers as learning designers enhances not only their practical skills, but also their theoretical understanding . Positioning their design initiatives in an inquiry cycle can further enhance their development, by adding an extra layer of rigor, and connecting educational theory to concrete experiences.

The design inquiry of learning approach is at the core of the Learning Design Studio model , which has been used in several MA courses and in the recently conducted Open Learning Design Studio MOOC (Mor & Mogilevsky, 2013a; 2013b).


Laurillard, D. (2012), Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology. , Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group , 7625 Empire Drive, Florence, KY 41042

Mor, Y. & Mogilevsky, O. (2013a), Learning design studio: educational practice as design inquiry of learning, in ‘Scaling up Learning for Sustained Impact’ , Springer Berlin Heidelberg, , pp. 233–245

Mor, Y. & Mogilevsky, O. (2013b), ‘The Learning Design Studio: Collaborative Design Inquiry as Teachers’ Professional Development‘, Research in Learning Technology 21

Voogt, J.; Westbroek, H.; Handelzalts, A.; Walraven, A.; McKenney, S.; Pieters, J. & de Vries, B. (2011), ‘Teacher learning in collaborative curriculum design’, Teaching and Teacher Education27 (8) , 1235 – 124


October 30, 2013 Posted by | design, learning design | Leave a comment

Webinar: The Art and Science of Learning Design: a Supplement of Research in Learning Technology, 19th Nov, 15:00 GMT

I am a co-editor of the supplement on “The art and science of learning design”, recently published by “Research in Learning Technology”. This publication includes eight papers and an editorial, and provides a deep and broad overview of some of the current debates in the field, along with vivid insights into several emerging tools and representations.

Several of the supplement’s authors will convene for a webinar, in which they will highlight key points in their papers, discuss issues emerging from this publication and answer audience questions and comments. Attendance is free, but please register at;


Yishay Mor, Independent Consultant: learning; design; technology; research. Previously: Senior Lecturer in Educational Technology at the Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University UK. Teaching fellow at the Technologies in Education Graduate Programme, the Faculty of Education, University of Haifa. Senior research fellow, the London Knowledge Lab. Senior software engineer, Cisco systems. Owner, J Shop. Senior software engineer, AgentSoft.

Valérie Emin-Martinez, PhD in Computer Sciences at University Joseph Fourier (Grenoble 1), is a researcher at the Institut Français de l’Éducation in Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, EducTice-S2HEP Laboratory. She coordinates since 2008 a research project on pedagogical scenario design in science and technique discipline. Her current research topics are “Pedagogical scenarios design”, “Game based learning” and “Design and uses of Serious Games” in real classrooms. She’s an associate member of GALA european network of excellence for Serious Games (

Helen Walmsley, e-Learning Models Coordinator at Staffordshire University, UK. She provides support for academic staff developing blended and distance learning using the Best Practice Models. Current research topics are learning design, distance learning and using a community of practice to support professional development in e-learning.

Michael Derntl, Senior Research Associate at the Information Systems and Databases chair, RWTH Aachen University, Germany. He holds a PhD in information systems from the University of Vienna, Austria. He is currently researching in the FP7 network of excellence GALA in the area of serious games, in the FP7 integrated project Learning Layers on software architectures and infrastructures for informal workplace learning, as well as in the Lifelong Learning Project METIS on integrated learning design environments. In the last decade he has published numerous articles in journals, books and conference proceedings.

Liz Masterman, PhD in Educational Technology from the University of Birmingham, and has an interest in sociocultural approaches to the design and evaluation of technology-enhanced teaching and learning. She is currently a senior researcher with the Academic IT Services (Learning & Teaching) Group in Oxford University IT Services. Her main fields of research in recent years have been learning design, the student digital experience and into open academic practices in UK universities.

Luis P. Prieto, PhD in Information and Communication Technologies, is a post-doctoral researcher at the GSIC-EMIC group in the University of Valladolid (Spain), and has previously worked as research and development engineer in the telecom industry. His main research interests include learning design, the orchestration of TEL and CSCL activities by teachers, the use of professional development to support technological change, or the application of augmented reality, paper and tangible interfaces to education. Many of these research threads come into play in the EU Lifelong Learning Programme project he currently spends most time on: Metis (“Meeting teachers’ co-design needs by means of Integrated Learning Environments”).


Editorial: The art and science of learning design PDF HTML EPUB XML
Yishay Mor, Brock Craft, Davinia Hernández-Leo
Designing and researching technology-enhanced learning for the zone of proximal implementation PDF HTML EPUB XML
Susan McKenney
Sustaining learning design and pedagogical planning in CSCL PDF HTML EPUB XML
Francesca Pozzi, Donatella Persico
In medias res: reframing design for learning PDF HTML EPUB XML
Peter Goodyear, Yannis Dimitriadis
Forward-oriented design for learning: illustrating the approach PDF HTML EPUB XML
Yannis Dimitriadis, Peter Goodyear
Designing and evaluating representations to model pedagogy PDF HTML EPUB XML
Elizabeth Masterman, Brock Craft
Orchestrating learning activities using the CADMOS learning design tool PDF HTML EPUB XML
Mary Katsamani, Symeon Retalis
Learning design Rashomon I – supporting the design of one lesson through different approaches PDF HTML EPUB XML
Donatella Persico, Francesca Pozzi, Stamatina Anastopoulou, Gráinne Conole, Brock Craft, Yannis Dimitriadis, Davinia Hernández-Leo, Yael Kali, Yishay Mor, Mar Pérez-Sanagustín, Helen Walmsley
Learning design Rashomon II: exploring one lesson through multiple tools PDF HTML EPUB XML
Luis P. Prieto, Yannis Dimitriadis, Brock Craft, Michael Derntl, Valérie Émin, Mary Katsamani, Diana Laurillard, Elizabeth Masterman, Symeon Retalis, Eloy Villasclaras

October 29, 2013 Posted by | learning design | Leave a comment

The art and science of learning design – a supplement of the Journal of Research in Learning Technology

I’m very happy to share the fruits of a long and intensive collaborative efforts.

The Journal of Research in Learning has recently published a supplement on “the art and science of learning design“, of which I am a co-editor. This supplement includes eight papers and an editorial. The work on this collection started at the “art and science of learning design” workshop. Some of the papers are direct descendants of contributions presented at the workshop, others are reflections and commentaries on the ideas discussed there, and two – Rashomon I and Rashomon II are new pieces of research proposed at the workshop’s concluding session.

Research and practice in learning design aims to make the tacit practices of design for learning explicit, provide suitable textual, visual and computational representations to support these practices, and suitable tools to manipulate them and share them. The editorial begins by considering the meaning of design, and the rationale for positioning education as a design practice.  We argue that whatever your interpretation of “learning” or “education”, it always concerns change – from an existing pattern of action or intentional state to a preferred one. This fits with Herbert Simon’s notion of design: “Engineers are not the only professional designers. Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones. “. We then expand the discussion, by considering Ertmer, Parisio, and Wardak definition of design, and Latour’s 5 “advantages” of design.

We argue (provocatively?) that the “grand challenge of learning design” can be summarised by three words: language, practice and tools. Language refers to the representational systems used in the act of learning design. Language also refers to the scientific and professional discourse about learning design. Representing educational practice is one of the central themes of learning design. A growing body of literature raises the questions of representing, understanding and advancing the practices of learning design themselves. Finally, effective design practices need to be supported by powerful learning design tools. Such tools need to support the expression of design knowledge in a range of languages. Thus, tools connect practice, language, and knowledge.

The other papers in this supplement speak to these challenges. While all papers touch on the three themes of language, practice and tools – each one has a different balance of attention among them.

McKenney’s Designing and researching technology-enhanced learning for the zone of proximal implementation presents a case for technology-enhanced learning research and development that focuses more on what is practical today than on what could be effective in theory in the future. The paper proposes methodological considerations for the design of clear, value-added and tolerant innovations aligned with the real needs of today’s implementation contexts. This perspective calls researchers to include in their studies attention to broad factors focused on how innovations are understood and used by teachers and schools.

Pozzi and Persico Sustaining learning design and pedagogical planning in CSCL focus on learning design in the Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) domain. In particular, the paper discusses diverse existing approaches to design, represent, refine and visualise collaborative learning designs, and proposes a unifying model for pedagogical planning in the CSCL design process, with a strong focus on supporting decision making. The unifying design model considers the four dimensions of Task, Teams, Time and Technology.

Goodyear and Dimitriadis, in In medias res: reframing design for learning, go beyond considering design as a significant task of the teaching practice and focus on the role of design as a relevant means of helping people learn. The paper discusses why it is important to have a theory of design for learning and set out some of its elements. Key issues addressed in the paper are around the different actors involved in a framework of design for learning (people creating designs which can help other people learn, the learners, teachers supporting people learn) or the kinds of things that can be designed and re-designed, and how they may relate to multiple learning layers and goals. In Forward-oriented design for learning: illustrating the approach Dimitriadis and Goodyear turn to the recent design for learning literature to illustrate their forward-oriented design approach. They focus on two key facets of the approach, design for orchestration and design for reflection, and identify key points for reflection upon their design approach. They then draw upon fieldwork from two case studies to highlight how their approach addresses important design problems and provides suitable solutions.

Masterman and Craft (Designing and evaluating representations to model pedagogy) further emphasise the importance of theoretical grounding, turning their emphasis to the problem of the selection of representations of learning designs. To capture learning designs requires representing them in some way, both during and after the design process. The authors propose using a framework for epistemic efficacy adapted from the cognitive psychology literature, to aid in evaluating the effectiveness representations. To illustrate this, they show how the framework can be applied to the evaluation of one pedagogic planning also, the Learning Designer.

Continuing the theme of design representations, in the next paper, Katsamani and Retalis’ Orchestrating learning activities using the CADMOS learning design tool discusses the tension between formal representations of learning designs (such as IMS-LD) and the concerns of educational practitioners, who are not versed in technical formalisms but need intuitive visual and textual representations which are easy to share and manipulate. They compare five popular LD tools (MOT+, Compendium, WebCollage, OpenGLM, and LAMS) using five criteria: usability, guidance, formalisation, pedagogical neutrality and design flexibility. They argue that no single tool satisfies all five criteria. They propose CADMOS as a tool which aims to address these concerns, by guiding practitioners in a design process which is based on the principle of “separation of concerns”: maintaining two parallel models of the design – a conceptual model and a flow model. They discuss the results of a user evaluation of the tool, and map its future development.

As the number of learning design tools and representations continues to grow, it becomes more difficult to keep track of them and to engage with them. Therefore, not many researchers or practitioners have time to try more than a few tools, and they are unlikely to use several different tools to author the same design. They are perhaps even more unlikely to take into consideration different approaches to the learning design process, itself. This is especially true for practitioners, who must cope with the day-to-day demands of teaching. Hence, the motivation for the concluding two papers in this supplement. We take our inspiration from the internationally acclaimed film, Rashomon (1950) by the late Japanese film director, Akira Kurosawa. Rashomon is notable not only because it introduced Japanese cinema to Western audiences, but also because of the novel plot device used by Kurosawa, in which the same narrative (a mysterious murder) is revealed from the perspectives of three different characters. We hope to provide the same benefit of multiple viewpoints in the papers Rashomon I and Rashomon II. As a result, these two concluding papers are rather different to the traditional research literature, but we believe they provide compelling perspectives on the contemporary opportunities and challenges in our field.

In Rashomon I Persico et al. consider the tensions and possible synergies between different approaches to LD by examining a single activity – the PI project Healthy Eating activity (Anastopoulou et al2012) through the lens of five different design approaches, each supported by particular representations and tools. These approaches are the 4SPPIces Model, the 4Ts, the e-Design Template, the Design Principles Database and the Design Narratives. The authors compare the various approaches according to their underlying pedagogical assumptions, their mode of use, and their advantages to the designer and educator. Each approach guides the designer through key decisions in the design process (or in the case of Design Narrative – in post-hoc reflection on it). The comparison does not claim to be extensive, or to conclude that one approach is superior to another. Its value is in exposing the reader to the diversity of the field and allowing her to form an understanding of what would serve her best in particular situations.

In the companion paper Rashomon II, Prieto et al. take the approach of modelling the same activity using five different tools. The authors use the same “healthy eating” activity from the PI project and describe how this inquiry-based learning scenario is implemented in all five tools, providing illustrations and a detailed discussion for each. They are thus able to uncover key differences and similarities among the tools. These entail differences in their use and usefulness, their audiences, and pedagogic specialties, among others. This comparative approach therefore also illustrates some of the key contemporary challenges for the field of Learning Design.

We hope this contribution is useful not just for the learning design community, but for all researchers and practitioners engaged in educational innovation.

October 7, 2013 Posted by | design, design patterns, learning design, technology | , | Leave a comment

CfP: BJET special issue on Learning Analytics, Learning Design and Teacher Inquiry (Deadline: 7 Oct)
Teacher-led inquiry, learning design and learning analytics:  a virtuous circle
Guest editors: Dr Yishay Mor, Dr Rebecca Ferguson and Professor Barbara Wasson
This special issue, BJET Volume 46, Issue 1, will be published in January 2015. This issue seeks to explore the synergy between teacher-led inquiry into student learning (TISL), learning design, and learning analytics.  For learning design to be effective, it should be informed and evaluated by teacher inquiry or should form part of a process of inquiry. For TISL to be meaningful, it should support the design of activities and resources. Together, these suggest an integrated dynamic model of teaching as design inquiry of learning. The recent emergence of learning analytics as a field offers to equip learners and teachers with powerful new tools that can support their inquiry into learning practices.

September 18, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Innovating Pedagogy report II is out

The OU’s Innovating Pedagogy reports explore new forms of teaching, learning and assessment, to guide educators and policy makers. The 2013 report updates four previous areas of innovation and introduces six new ones: Crowd Learning, Learning from Gaming, Maker Culture, Geo-Learning, Digital Scholarship and Citizen Inquiry. The report can be downloaded from

September 8, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Call for Submissions – MOOCs and Beyond: eLearning Papers Issue 33

eLearning Papers is currently welcoming submissions which address the challenges and future of Massive Open Online Courses, a trend in education that has skyrocketed since 2008. Issue 33, MOOCs and Beyond, seeks to both generate debate, and coalesce a variety of critical perspectives into a fruitful body of research.

Educators today are confronted with several questions regarding MOOCs. These include:What role do they play in the undergraduate degree system? In particular, what threat do they pose to higher education as it currently operates? Also, what does the path towards proper accreditation for these classes look like?

On a broader level, MOOCs offer another site from which to explore the intersection between technology and pedagogy, in the effort to improve our understanding of how to support learning. How do MOOCs differ from face-to-face, or even on-line closed courses? What is particular about the MOOC learning experience, and what does that teach us?

Contributors are invited to present theoretical or empirical research, specifically regarding the following topics:

– Experiences speaking to the design, implementation or assessment of a MOOC.

– The impact of MOOCs within Higher Education.

– Learning analytics and MOOCs.

– Peer-to-peer learning and MOOCs.

– Analyses of the impact and reach of MOOCs – considering course completion, global recognition.

The guest editor for this edition is Yishay Mor.

Deadline: March 25th, 2013.

Click here to read the complete Call for Papers.

March 9, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

manifesto for teaching online: a design checklist for a 21st Century curriculum?

Cross posted from the OLDS MOOC blog:

Rebecca Ferguson and Mike Sharples pointed me to University of Edinburgh MSc in E-learning 2011’s manifesto for teaching online.

I wonder: how many of their maxims we follow? How many will emerge from the OLDS MOOC participant projects? Here’s a sample:
The possibility of the ‘online version’ is overstated. The best online courses are born digital.
‘Best practice’ is a totalising term blind to context – there are many ways to get it right.
Every course design is philosophy and belief in action.
The aesthetics of online course design are too readily neglected: courses that are fair of (inter)face are better places to teach and learn in.

December 19, 2012 Posted by | design | Leave a comment

this is your brain on code

Hannah Wright has an interesting study on cognitive advantages of programming, which she finds are similar to those of bilinguals:

The performance of 10 professional computer programmers (aged 22–25) and 10 adolescent computer programmers (aged 14–17) is compared to age-matched and IQ-matched controls in two executive control tasks. In the Attention Networks Test, as predicted, programmers recorded faster global reaction times than their monolingual peers; the difference was significant. In the Stroop colour-word task, programmers recorded slower reaction times; however, these results were not significant. Overall, the results suggest that extensive computer programming experience may, like bilingualism, be associated with enhanced executive control. Whatever the direction of this relationship, it could have important implications for education; these are discussed, along with areas for future research.

Hannah is very cautious about her results, and is well aware of the difference between correlation and causation. Nevertheless, this does warrant further investigation. In fact, here is one area of educational research where pre- and post- tests would be meaningful. And, I wonder if there’s a case for a cognitive neuroscience perspective? Yes, surely coding changes your brain – just like any tennis, or any activity you practice regularly. The question is, how?

Another perspective (personal plug – Mor & Noss 2008) is that programming creates mental bridges between mathematics and narrative. Narrative, as Bruner showed, is the means by which we organise experience into meaning. As Hirsh, Mar & Peterson argue: “A growing body of theory and research indicates that the broadest and most integrative levels of an individual’s knowledge system can be characterized as narrative descriptions of reality”. For example, Mar (2011) shows a strong link between narrative comprehension and theory of mind – our core mechanism of social cognition.

What has all this to do with Mathematics? Very little, and that’s the problem. Most people find mathematics hard to grasp, precisely because it is de-narratised. Wittgenstein said “Mathematics is invented to suit experience and then made independent of experience”, stripped of person, time, context – all the elements that make a narrative. The pure perfection of maths is the source of its power, but it leave our narrative apparatus nothing to latch on to.

And this is where coding comes in. Code is narrative in form, but mathematics in essence. A wolf in sheep’s skin. It tells a story, but that story has no tolerance for ambiguity or error. By putting our picture of the world into code, we tell a story – and in doing so construct meaning – but that story is mathematical.

Hirsh, J. B.; Mar, R. A. & Peterson, J. B. (in press), ‘Personal narratives as the highest level of cognitive integration’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Mar, R. (2011), ‘The neural bases of social cognition and story comprehension’, Annual review of psychology 62 , 103-134,

Mor, Yishay and Noss, Richard (2008). Programming as mathematical narrative. International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning (IJCEELL), 18(2), pp. 214–233.

December 16, 2012 Posted by | narrative learning, neuroscience | Leave a comment

My Phd, made practical: “SNaP! Re-using, sharing and communicating designs and design knowledge using scenarios, narratives and patterns”

Mor, Yishay (2013). SNaP! Re-using, sharing and communicating designs and design knowledge using scenarios, narratives and patterns. In: Luckin, Rose; Goodyear, Peter; Grabowski, Barbara and Winters, Niall eds. Handbook of Design in Educational Technology. London: Routledge, (In press).

In order to enable a culture of critical, informed and reflective design practice we need a linguistic framework for communicating design knowledge: the knowledge of the characteristic features of a domain of practice, the challenges which inhabit it, and the established methods of resolving them. Such an infrastructure must “serve two masters”; on one hand, it should adhere to the requirements of scientific rigor, ensuring that the proposed conditions and challenges are genuine and the solutions effective. On the other hand, it should maintain pragmatic adequacy, ensuring that the insights it encapsulates are readily available for practitioners to implement in real-world situations. Several representations have been proposed to this effect: design narratives (Mor, 2011; Barab et al, 2008; Bell, Hoadley and Linn, 2004; Hoadley, 2002; Linn & Hsi, 2000), design principles (Kali, 2006, 2008; Linn, Bell, & Davis, 2004; Merrill, 2002; Quintana et al., 2004; van den Akker, 1999), and design patterns (Derntl & Motschnig-Pitrik, 2005; Goodyear, 2005; Mor & Winters, 2007; Retalis et al, 2006), to name a few. The aim of this chapter is to characterise two of these forms – design narratives and design patterns, and propose a third form – design scenarios, and suggest how these could be embedded in a cycle of reflective learning design.


November 28, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

phenomenology, representation, design

I’m working on a paper on “the grand challenges of learning design”. One of the issues I’m exploring is representation: what would be a good representational infrastructure for learning design? I thought I should look for analogies in other design practices, e.g. architecture. But then: what are we representing? Reading Jones (2011), I thought: are we representing the object, or the phenomena? What does an architectural drawing capture? And to what purpose? Is it a contract between designer, inhabitant, builder? Or is it a metaphor for a lived experience? Or maybe that’s what sketches are for – as Tversky & Suwa (below) note – sketches allow the designer to express “what the designer wants to create”, overlaying spatial information with functional properties. So are sketches our way of articulating phenomena?
Then there’s Latour and Yaneva who are not the least bit impressed my the whole phenomenological project:
All this is very well, except it does nothing more than to reproduce, at the level of architecture, the usual split between subjective and objective dimensions that has always paralyzed architectural theory—not to mention the well known split it has introduced between the architectural and engineering professions (and not to mention the catastrophic consequences it has had on philosophy proper).
The paradoxical aspect of this division of labor envisioned by those who want to add the “lived” dimensions of human perspective to the “objective” necessities of material existence is that, in order to avoid reducing humans to things, they first had to reduce things to drawings.
Jones, D. (2011), An alternative (to) reality, in ‘Proceedings of the Researching Learning in Immersive Virtual Environments Conference’.
Latour, B. & Yaneva, A. (2008), ‘“GIVE ME A GUN AND I WILL MAKE ALL BUILDINGS MOVE”: AN ANT’S VIEW OF ARCHITECTURE’, Explorations in architecture: Teaching, design, research , 80-89.
Tversky, B. & Suwa, M. (2009), Thinking with sketches , pp. 75-85 .
Suwa, M. & Tversky, B. (1997), ‘What do architects and students perceive in their design sketches? A protocol analysis’, Design studies 18 (4) , 385-403 .

November 28, 2012 Posted by | design | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments