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The Biggest Challenges Facing Higher Ed Learning Designers in 2022

  • 4 Min Read

Experts in learning design and system admin offer insights into the biggest challenges in higher education


In late July, over 750 people gathered in the city of Boston to take part in Fusion, D2L’s education conference. The event, which was held at the Marriott Copley Place, welcomed a mix of experts from the K–12, higher education and corporate learning spaces. Guests were treated to three days of in-person and virtual panel discussions, presentations and fun activities.

A truly global conference, Fusion attracted attendees from all over the world, giving D2L the opportunity to catch up with some of our users in Europe. We chatted with some of our users in Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK, who boast expertise in course design, learning design and systems administration. We asked them what they felt their biggest challenges were. Here’s what they shared:

Jonas Peterson, System Administrator, Brightspace, Technical University of Denmark

The biggest challenge for educators is everything that’s not educating. What does that mean? Well, anything that takes their time and focus away from delivering the best teaching experience to students.

Technical University of Denmark is set up in such a way that a lot of the responsibilities associated with course design and implementation fall on the teachers. Administrative work also makes up a big part of their workload. Now, imagine having to do all of that, but for a larger class (some of our courses have 500+ students). It can take a toll. Teachers will get frustrated and come to us for help. We try to be a resource, not a rule book. We don’t want to tell them what to do. We want to help them do what they do in the best way.

Education is going through a disruption. And when you’re changing something that radically, you tend to forget the smaller things. You think, well, I’ll make this change for this course this one time. But it’s never that simple and when you add it all up, it’s a huge undertaking.

There is so much behind-the-scenes work teachers are doing and it’s tough to juggle it alongside everything else. So, what we are trying to do is see whether there are opportunities for automation, for templating, etc. How can we save teachers time? That’s the goal.

Michiel van Geloven, Project Manager, Brightspace, University of Groningen

Our biggest challenge is that more and more of our students are taking courses across different faculties. Because of this, we feel a real need to make the setup of the courses in the learning management system (LMS) transparent and consistent for learners. How can we organize an LMS in such a way that students can easily find and recognize core structures, irrespective of the faculty they’re in? It could be arts, science and engineering, law, or medicine—whatever the department, the course experience should feel somewhat similar and consistent.

To do this, we spent time creating a course template that can be used across departments. This template not only helps students find their way in the different courses in different faculties, but it also helps teachers structure their course(s).

What does that look like? Instead of every teacher needing to sit down and figure out how to structure a course, the template is there; it’s already done. We developed a weekly structure that easily fits into nearly every course. Granted, for some teachers, it’s challenging to move over, but in the end, it helps them organize the courses in such a way that students can navigate through the material in a logical fashion. Secondly, this course template also helps our team automate a lot of information that gets processed. It reduces the amount of time teachers would be copying and pasting things from one course to the next.

Gemma Stafford, Interim Principal Learning Designer, Nottingham Trent Uni

The biggest challenge for our educators is providing students with value for their money. A lot of feedback during the pandemic was that students didn’t feel like they were getting value for their money because of the remote contingency learning they were provided with. But they’re conflating the idea of remote learning with online learning. Those are two totally different things.

Remote learning is like a lifeboat in an emergency. On the other hand, online learning, when done effectively, is like a yacht. There’s a lot of time and thought that go into creating online learning activities and making sure that they’re pedagogically sound and fit for purpose.

I find that students think that the shift toward more online learning as part of their course of study means they’re not getting their money’s worth, even though it’s a bigger investment. It isn’t just the academic who is delivering the material from the front of the classroom. There’s a learning designer working to create and design materials and lots more in the way of those invisible things, such as the tools and systems that I don’t think academic colleagues or students necessarily consider.

Register for Fusion 2023 today:

We’ll have more post-Fusion content coming to you over the next few weeks, but our on-demand, virtual content is available to view now. Register to see all the talks.

Eager to experience the real deal next year? Preregistration for Fusion 2023 in Anaheim, California, is already underway. Sign up now.

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