Learning technology by design: A sustainable approach to the renewal of academic practice

Posted on: December 19, 2009

The ‘learning technology by design’ (Koehler & Mishra 2005) is the framework being used for bringing academics along towards sustainable renewal of educational practice, and forms part of the institutional repositioning of learning and teaching at my university. Koehler and Mishra (2005) suggest that this approach can help academic staff respond in a sustainable manner to the pedagogical possibilities that new technologies have to offer. Learning technology by design provides academic staff with opportunities to encounter the connections between technology, content and pedagogy, and has been shown to lead to meaningful learning (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Academics learn by doing in a collaborative and supportive environment, often tied to their attempts to solve genuine educational problems. The learning technology by design approach puts academics in a more active role as designers of technology as opposed to the role of passive consumers of technology (Koehler & Mishra, 2005), inherent in most standard how to use the technology workshops.

To prepare for the Moodle implementation, academics are shown the capabilities of the system and go through different stages of reflection during course design planning. Using the seven principles for good practice (Chickering & Gamson, 1987) as the lens to explore pedagogical possibilities in Moodle, academics, as course designers, work with curriculum designers and information technology staff in discovering different features of Moodle to address key pedagogical requirements for course delivery as espoused in the Minimum Service Standards. The Minimum Service Standards for Course Delivery communicate service expectations, which students and staff use as a point of reference.

The elements in the Minimum Service Standards provide a starting point for course design planning, aided by exemplar courses developed by Moodle Mentors. The exemplar courses not only exhibit the Moodle elements used to meet the minimum design expectations, but the exemplars also demonstrate possibilities for integrating good pedagogical practice into the design. There were no pre-defined templates provided during the pilot, but in response to requests from academic staff, a common course shell was introduced containing commonly used blocks such as Latest News, People and activities block. However, unlike the previous practice of prescribing the look and feel of the course site in Blackboard, academics as course designers shape the design of the course site and its content, often evolving from the initial requirements in the Minimum Service Standards.

During group discussions in early parts of the workshop, there are tendencies amongst academic staff to treat technology, content and pedagogy as relatively independent areas of knowledge. However as academics go through the actual course design and development process, the possibilities to recognise the complex and intertwined relationships between technology, content and pedagogy are increased (see Koehler & Mishra, 2005). Interestingly, many academics have chosen to go beyond the minimum requirements for course delivery as they begin to appreciate the liberating aspects of the new LMS that have previously inhibited innovation in other systems. What is apparent in some cases is that the seven principles through the Minimum Service Standards provided a framework and a label for what good teachers have always done, i.e. setting the environment for students to encourage active learning and providing a means to connect with each other, among other important aspects of the pedagogy of engagement (see Krause, 2005). What is also apparent is that while some academics appear risk-averse they are still willing to adopt the technology particularly if they perceived benefits for students, as Birch and Burnett have also observed (2009). The courses developed in Moodle thus far provide evidence that when academics directly assume the role of designer, actively engaging in the development of their courses, they have a greater appreciation for the technology and its connection with the content and pedagogical practices. Using the learning technology by design approach in facilitating course development, a sense of ownership is also noticeable.


Birch, D. & Burnett, B. (2009). “Bringing academics on board: Ecouraging institution-wide diffusion of e-learning environments”. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. 25(1), 117-134.

Chickering, A.W., & Gamson, Z.F. (1987), Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7), 3-7.

Koehler, M.J. & Mishra, P. (2005). “Tracing the development of teacher knowledge in a design seminar: Integrating content, pedagogy and technology”. Computers & Education, 49, 740-762.

Krause, K-L. (2005). Understanding and promoting student engagement in university learning communities. Centre for the Study of Higher Education: University of Melbourne.

Mishra, P. & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

1 Response to "Learning technology by design: A sustainable approach to the renewal of academic practice"

G’day Nona,

Sounds good in theory. However, I’m struggling to connect your observations with what I’m observing. I readily admit that my observations are anecdotal and mostly (though not all) second hand.

Do you have observations/evaluation results that are not anecdotal?
In particular, results of independent evaluations. i.e. not self-reporting or evaluations run by the folk driving the move to the new LMS.

In addition, are you confident that the “courses developed in Moodle thus far” provide a good basis for extrapolation to what will happen with the vast majority of courses? Haven’t most of the courses so far been developed by Moodle Mentors? Weren’t most of them chosen for their motivation/experience around learning and teaching? I fear that, perhaps, they are not necessarily representative of the majority of staff.

I wasn’t aware that there was a previous practice to prescribe the look and feel of Blackboard courses. Most of the Bb courses I saw were of a unique nature.

Lastly, I’m particularly interested in how/if the individual inhibitors discussed in Birch & Burnett (2009) are being addressed by the institution and how/if the absence of any such approach may/will create difficulties when this work moves beyond the Moodle mentors – the early adopters.


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