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Why learning design? Why now?

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Instructional design. Learning design. Learner experience design. Whatever you call it, it has been a growing interest.  In the first of three panel discussions on learning design from the Centre for Online and Distance Learning’s Learning Design SIG, leading experts discuss the rise and fall of interest in learning design. What is it? What problems can it solve for universities? Why does it matter now? And will universities get there?

During the height of the pandemic, Inside Higher Ed hailed the instructional designer as “hottest job in higher education”. Emergency remote teaching had to be acceptable. Yet universities were finding that “students and their tuition-paying parents won’t stand for simply winging it.” They were finding online education requires its own expertise. They were finding it takes more planning and design. In other words, universities were finding they needed instructional designers. Or, depending on who you ask, learning designers.

But, after a period of new partnerships and investments, the interest appears to have recently declined.

These events only leave us with more questions than answers. Such as, what is learning design? Is it a new approach? And what problems can it solve, if any?


A panel of distinguished speakers will lead the discussion and engage with other participants to address these questions, led by Leonard Houx, CODE fellow and Director of Learning Design at the Cambridge Education Group. The panellists are:

  • Donald Clark is an author, CEO, professor, blogger, frequent podcast guest and keynote speaker. He was the CEO and co-founder of the UK e-learning company Epic Group, which went public on the stock market in 1996 and was sold in 2005. He has written three books on digital education including Learning Experience Design.
  • Phil Hill is publisher of the PhilOnEdTech blog and co-founder / lead at MindWires Consulting. As a market analyst, Phil has analysed the growth of technology-enabled change for educational institutions, uncovering and describing the major trends and implications for the broader market. 
  • Margaret Korosec is Dean of Online and Digital Education at the University of Leeds. She previously led the growth of the credit and non-credit bearing online portfolio at the University of Derby Online Learning which launched 13 new online degrees in less than two years. 
  • Neil Mosley is a CODE fellow, consultant, designer and frequent keynote speaker specialising in digital and online learning, who works with universities, small and large companies, arts and cultural organisations and other education providers. 
  • Stephanie Moore is Assistant Professor in the Organization, Information, and Learning Sciences program at the University of New Mexico and the fellow of the Barbara Bush Foundation / Dollar General Foundation. She has written extensively on online education under lockdown conditions.