EDU5601 Designing for Flexible Learning Environments

This page offers a general orientation to the course. Begin reading here and then look at the Assessment section before proceeding to the substance of the Modules. The Resources page has links to resources you may find helpful as you work through the course. The course specification provides an overview of the course, including rationale, objectives, topics, and assessment plan.


Learning design is a systematic process in which principles of learning and instruction are translated into plans for learning materials and activities. Instructional Systems Design (ISD) provides one framework for the systematic design, development and management of educational materials and programs. This framework has been used as a convenient structure for this course but learning design is continuously evolving and current approaches are more agile than might be implied by the sequential structure often presented for more conventional ISD.

The content of this course focuses on the following main topics:

  • learning needs assessment,
  • learner and learning context analysis,
  • defining learning goals and learning outcomes,
  • analysing knowledge, content, tasks and skills,
  • selecting, sequencing and presenting content,
  • selecting appropriate media, and
  • applying learning strategies and assessing learning outcomes; and evaluation of the program.

Graphic organisers

The content of this course has been represented using a series of graphic organisers or visual representations of how the content “fits together”. These organisers appear at or near the beginning of modules.

The main organiser below presents the key concepts of the course and the relationships among them in a graphical form, based on the ADDIE model (see Module 1) of learning/instructional design. Further elaborations on the main organiser (below) are provided here and in the modules.

Note the arrows in this first diagram and the central placement of the evaluation process. Keep this diagram in mind as you progress through the course. You may find – or create – one that better represents the process for your purposes. Feel free to share these ideas with your fellow learners and your course team.

ADDIE model

The following are further elaborations on the topic.

Design and development

Aims of the course

This course aims to provide you with the opportunity to develop your knowledge and understanding of some commonly adopted theories and processes of learning (or instructional) design, and the ability to apply these to practice. The course will explore issues relating to:

  • learning design;
  • flexible contexts;
  • theories and perspectives on learning;
  • analysis of learners and their learning contexts and learning needs;
  • specification of learning outcomes or objectives;
  • selection, sequencing and synthesising of content;
  • the match of learning strategies, content and delivery media;
  • the match of proposed learning outcomes to the assessment of learning outcomes; and
  • the evaluation of learning programs.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course, you should be able to :

  1. demonstrate understanding of contemporary and emerging theories and perspectives of learning, and learning/instructional design, and their application in context (Assignments 1, 2 and 3)
  2. demonstrate understanding of the principles, practices and procedures of needs and context analysis and specification of learning objectives and learning outcomes (Assignments 1, 2 and 3)
  3. develop and justify a learning design project that addresses an identified learning need, demonstrating a match of content, learning strategies, delivery media and assessment in the learning design (Assignments 1, 2 and 3)
  4. demonstrate an ability to select appropriate media and strategies for supporting attainment and assessment of learning outcomes (Assignments 1, 2 and 3)
  5. demonstrate understanding of the role of evaluation in learning/instructional design (Assignments 2 and 3)
  6. demonstrate competence in written expression and scholarly writing including correct spelling, grammar, style and bibliographic referencing (Assignments 1, 2 and 3)
  7. demonstrate a willingness and ability to engage in discussion with peers in the online learning environment (Assignment 2).

Your personal levels of achievement and satisfaction with the course may vary according to your work experience, and prior knowledge of the content. For maximum benefit you should ask yourself the following questions in relation to each of the stated learning outcomes. These questions will allow you to engage in some negotiation of the learning experiences with your teachers and fellow learners.

  • What do I want or need to know and be able to do, that I don’t know now or how?
  • What is the source of that knowledge/skill? Are there useful interactions in which I can participate in order to acquire it? What other things might I do?
  • How will I know that I am accessing the correct information and if I am comprehending the knowledge base adequately?
  • How can I test out my new knowledge/skill in the context of an applied situation, and through social interaction?

Guiding principles of the course

The teaching and learning principles that underpin the design of this course include:

  • development of a supportive and productive working environment where participants can access, comment, and interact, and their progress is monitored.
  • a focus on situated learning. The activities and assessment support the concept of situated learning that is based on the idea that if knowledge is learned in a meaningful and relevant context, it will be available for use in that, or similar contexts.
  • authentic activity and assessment that requires participants to develop a program (or part thereof) to be used in their own work situation. Your course examiner will provide formative feedback via discussion forums and feedback on assignments to support you in this activity
  • interactive learning. Participants are encouraged to interact with the content, with their peers, with ‘experts’ in the field and with the course team.
  • use of reflective practice. Participants are required to reflect on their current practice and relate it to the learning acquired through this program.

Assumptions about you as a learner

The design of the course assumes some things about you as a learner. First is that you are reasonably computer literate. Second, because this is a postgraduate course it is assumed that you will be able to:

  • go beyond the information given and locate your own supplementary materials,
  • participate effectively in collaborative learning activities, sharing ideas, information and insights in the discussion forums,
  • analyse, synthesise and evaluate relevant theoretical knowledge, and
  • engage in critical/reflective thinking in relation to both theoretical knowledge and professional practices.

It is also assumed that you will have had some experience in education and/or training contexts so that you can ‘situate’ what you learn in this course within an authentic teaching/learning environment and context.

One of the pedagogical principles underlying this course is the value of interaction and collaborative learning. Communication is integral to your learning experience. You will benefit most from this if your responses and submissions maintain pace with the majority of the group. You will be able to communicate with other learners and with the teaching team via the discussion forums and email. Many of the set tasks will be explained further in the discussion forums and you are expected to join and participate in the various forums.

Support services

You have access to a wide variety of support services from USQ. This includes the contacts for technical help and administrative queries and information on assignment submissions and study assistance available to you. Near the middle of the top yellow menu bar in StudyDesk you will find a list of Useful Links and at the right hand end the Question Mark icon links to AskUSQ where you will find answers to common questions and the opportunity to ask your own.

Other support includes:

  • Interaction with the course team through the course materials and the StudyDesk.
  • Your peers. These are other learners in this course who may be located throughout the world. They will be a valuable source of support and inspiration throughout your learning journey. By being an online participant in this course, you will be able to communicate with all other participants either individually or as part of a group.
  • USQ Library offers support through Online/External student services
  • Experts in the field. These are persons from around the world with considerable expertise and experience in their particular fields and with whom you may interact via their websites, blogs or twitter feeds.

Accessibility of Resources

Many Internet resources have been referred to within this course. At the time of developing these course materials, these resources were accessible. However, because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, there is a possibility that the web sites may become inaccessible at some stage. If this occurs, we will endeavour to locate alternative sources and advise you of these either in the News announcements section of the course, in the discussion forums, or by adding them to the Resources page.

If you notice that any of the weblinks are not accessibile, please notify me and your fellow learners via the Hints, tips and missing links forum on the course study desk.

Referencing style

The referencing style used in this course is that developed by the American Psychological Association (APA). The USQ Library offers an online APA Referencing guide that provides the information you will need.

Mapping concepts or minds

Concept mapping is a technique for representing ideas and knowledge in a visual and graphical way. It can be done for several purposes:

  • to generate ideas (brain storming, etc.),
  • to design a complex structure (such as a large website),
  • to communicate complex ideas,
  • to aid learning by explicitly integrating new and old knowledge, and
  • to assess understanding or diagnose misunderstanding.

You may also have heard of the term “mind mapping”. You might use concept mapping and/or mind mapping to help assimilate the knowledge you gain from this course and apply it to the task of designing your learning program or course.


Concept Mapping and Mind Mapping Resources

Useful web pages include:

  • One well known option for concept mapping software is CMap, from the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in the USA. It allows for some interesting and potentially very useful options (including collaborative work). You can download it for free for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Linux.
  • Another excellent software solution for concept mapping is Inspiration. A free , time-limited trial is available.
  • For a quick overview of the technique of mind mapping, go to

There are many other resources on the Internet related to this topic. Search for “concept mapping” and see what is available. Share your findings in the Week 1 discussion forum.

Blogs, Wikis, Twitter and more…

You will almost certainly be aware of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. You may already be dipping into those or similar services for personal and professional purposes. If you have not explored their potential for professional learning you should take some time to do that. Although social networking sites are sometimes derided for being time wasters full of trivia they also support many professional connections and other valuable sources of information including news and emergency services.

In a world of abundant and rapidly changing information developing an effective personal/professional learning network (PLN) is an important strategy for maintaining professional currency. As an educator, a strong PLN is be a way to maintain professional links with distant colleagues and engage in lifelong learning. Being part of an active PLN can help you to be a more effective professional educator. A network is typically somewhat looser than a group or community. It may include people you know well but may also include others you have not met but follow as sources of information without necessarily engaging in direct exchanges. It may begin with people you know in the real world and be extended through social networking services to include people with whom you have no other connection.

Getting value from these services for professional purposes is a matter of making and managing the connections that work for you. You may communicate with your PLN using a variety of means including face-to-face, telephone, email, SMS, Skype, or social networking sites. Your choices will depend upon who is involved and what you are communicating. These 10 tips on personal learning networks for educators offer short practical advice about building a PLN and links to additional reading. You might also find value in the Teacher's Guide on Creating Personal Learning Networks. If you are more ambitious you might investigate these 20 tips for creating a professional learning network. It has been said that 'if you don't have a PLN, you don't know what you are missing'. Don't miss out. For more resources about PLNs try my Diigo bookmarks tagged with PLN.

The front page of the course StudyDesk features panels that display tweets with the hashtag #edu5601 and links I have tagged in Diigo as relevant to EDU5601. You can access those withut subscribing to Twitter or Diigo. You can also contribute to the flow of shared information and resources by tagging relevant tweets with #edu5601.

A blog can be an effective way of documenting your thinking about issues and engaging in related discussions. Assignment 2 requires you to share your experiences with flexible learning and a blog is an appropriate way to do that. A course group has been established in the Mahara eportfolio system. You should join that group and create a shared page where your blog posts will be available to other members of the class. You can use the blog/journal provided in the Mahara system or embed content from a blog you have elsewhere if you prefer.

Next steps

You should now be orientated to the course and have a growing sense of where things are headed for the semester. This activity is offered to encourage you to take some time to read and think before moving on to the substance of the course.

Reading activity

Diana Laurillard is currently Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies at University College London. This article was written when she was Pro-Vice Chancellor (Learning Technologies & Teaching) at the Open University in the United Kingdom. Although the piece was written in 2002, a long time ago in the digital world, it is still relevant, especially for her thinking around the convesational framework that she developed in the 1990s.

Laurillard, D. (2002). Rethinking teaching for the knowledge society.

Read the article, reflect on what it might mean for your own learning and the learning that you design for others. Share your thoughts in the Week 1 discussion forum and engage in conversation with your colleagues.

Now take some time to read (or re-read) the Assessment section. You will need to do some planning in preparation for those activities before getting into the detail of the modules. Don't neglect to visit the StudyDesk and check the forums regularly.


This course was originally designed and facilitated by Shirley Reushle, Associate Director of the Australian Digital Futures Institute at USQ and was subsequently revised by Catherine Arden. It has been refreshed for the 2015 offer by Peter Albion.