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How learning design influences student outcomes and experiences in postgraduate online courses  

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 11:00am – 11:30am parallel session



Room 9 – 3030-G23 MLT1



Associate Professor Margaret Bearman
Deakin University, Australia

Sarah Lambert
Deakin University, Australia

Associate Professor Marcus O’Donnell
Deakin University, Australia



Learning design is increasingly seen as a significant part of higher education, particularly given the rise of technology-mediated environments. The scholarly conversations around learning design include the “teacher-as-designer”, “design thinking” and “design patterns”. However, how these various notions translate to the student experience remains unclear. The aim of this study is to explore how an institutional approach to learning design can influence student outcomes and experiences.


The initiative/practice

The Degrees@FutureLearn project at Deakin University delivers a design-based suite of postgraduate degrees on a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) platforms. A high-level learning design map enables a whole of subject view. At a micro level, there were cycles of a consistent learning sequence of presenting intellectual content, followed by learner focused activity and peer interaction.



We used a presage-process-product model to evaluate an early iteration of the project. Quantitative data sources included unit evaluation surveys and institutional enrolment and completion data. Qualitative data collected specifically for this study included text from a qualitative survey, student interviews and longitudinal audio diaries. Quantitative analysis included relative risk and descriptive statistics. Qualitative data was thematically analysed.


Evidence of effectiveness

The quantitative data suggests that the overall approach, including the design, may substantively improve retention rates. However, the qualitative data revealed more nuanced aspects of the student experience. The thematic analysis suggests a complex picture of both benefits and constraints presented by the learning design. In particular, many students emphasised the value of the stepwise, consistent and activity-oriented approach.  However a number of students found the same approach limiting. It appeared that some students experienced both the benefits and limitations simultaneously. These findings have influenced both how educators work with the micro-level learning designs in this project and new macro-level learning design approaches.


Presentation topic

Students – Learning

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