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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

A Learning Design Support Environment (LDSE) for Teachers and Lecturers

Grant reference: RES-139-25-0406

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Impact Report details

A Learning Design Support Environment for lecturers
The project goals were to Research the optimal model for an effective learning design support environment (the Learning Designer) Achieve an impact of the LDSE on teachers' practice in designing TEL Identify the factors that are conducive to collaboration among teachers in designing TEL Embed knowledge of teaching and learning in the learning design software architecture Improve representations of the theory and practice of learning design with TEL.

Primary contributor

Author Diana Laurillard

Additional contributors

Co-author George Magoulas
Co-author Kim Whittlestone
Co-author Steve Ryan
Co-author Marion Manton
Co-author Elizabeth Masterman
Co-author Tom Boyle


The Learning Designer is an innovative tool developed with the help of lecturers. The software interprets and analyses users’ learning designs according to pedagogy principles, enables them to analyse the potential impact of TEL approaches on their proposed design, and provides feedback on their implications to students learning. By collecting learning designs, it enables lecturers to share and compare pedagogic ideas, and thus become more productive. Previous attempts to develop “toolkits” to support teachers in engaging with learning theories, but they provide little support and do not accommodate the needs of lecturers and teachers. The Learning Designer offers a genuinely interdisciplinary basis for representing learning design. It enables teachers to appropriately apply theory and practice in more learner-centred way, and create learning designs that offer learners experiences that are more relevant to their needs. Lecturers, like all professionals, need technology to help them become more productive. They need design tools to capture their pedagogic ideas, test them out, and rework them, building on what others have done before and sharing their results with their community. Teachers in all sectors must 'modernise' their teaching, and a tool that puts this redesign process in the hands of the teaching community should help to deliver that. The Learning Designer helps the user construct learning designs: to record and share designs more easily, to store them in the form of pedagogic patterns addressing a specified learning outcome), in generic and several content-specific formats, which users can adapt to their own context. Users can make new constructs available to others, creating an ever-expanding library. The tool offers a systematic approach to operationalising the epistemic properties of learning designs, to bridge the gap between learning theory and teaching practice, offering a pattern-based support for learning design.

The two tools are now available to the research and teaching communities: the Learning Designer ( and the Pedagogical patterns Collector ( The former is the downloadable standalone version. The latter is a website with browsable patterns, offering a simpler version, where teachers can collaborate online, and submit their own designs to the user-generated patterns collection on the website. Both tools have accompanying User Guides. The teaching use of the tools provides a way to extend the capacity of the teaching community in all sectors to develop the knowledge about how best to teach to their curriculum objectives. User find that the decisions they are asked to make and the pedagogical concepts they are offered immediately prompt reflection and interrogation of their teaching practice, and ideas of how to integrate technology. The research use of the tools greatly extends the capacity of the research community to understand how to achieve the kind of teacher-generated design research that has been posited in the US educational research literature, though without recourse to the opportunities offered by online technologies. The ‘ontology’ for the learning design domain for the first time brings together all the concepts and activities that teachers use as they develop their pedagogical design ideas, both conventional and digital. To assist with new business modelling for HE courses, the modelling tool for teacher workload and pedagogic impact embedded in the Learning Designer is also being developed as a standalone tool. The project developed research & evaluation methods and instruments, now packaged and available for others to use with the tools. The work of the project has been used to contribute to a MOOC on ‘Learning Design for the 21st Century Curriculum’, to run January-March 2013, in collaboration with the Open University.

Academic publications Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology. New York and London: Routledge. Masterman, L. (2013). The challenge of teachers¹ design practice. In H. Beetham & R. Sharpe (Eds.), Rethinking Pedagogy for the Digital Age, 2nd edition. London: Routledge. Charlton, P., Magoulas, G., & Laurillard, D. (2012). Enabling Creative Learning Design through Semantic Technologies. Technology Pedagogy and Education: Special Issue on the Semantic Web in Education, 21(2). Charlton P. & Magoulas G.D. (2012). Context-aware Framework for Supporting Personalisation and Adaptation in Creation of Learning Designs. In S. Graf, F. Lin, Kinshuk & R. McGreal (eds.) Intelligent and Adaptive Learning Systems: Technology Enhanced Support for Learners and Teachers. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Policy publications Laurillard, D. (2012) Power tools for teachers, Public Policy Review, Vol 8, Public Service Co. UK Laurillard, D. (2011). Cost-benefit Modelling for Open Learning. Moscow: UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education. Presentations An international ALT webinar debate on ’To what extent should learning design be supported computationally?' Keynotes on how learning design tools can improve the demand for open educational resources for the HEA, and UNESCO; on supporting teachers as an innovative professional learning community to conferences on Research and Innovation in Distance Education (London), Design for Learning (Copenhagen), the ePortfolio and Identity conference (London), the International Association of TEFL (Glasgow), the online ‘Share-e-Fest’ (New Zealand), International Adult Learning (Singapore), Training, Trends and Technology (London), JISC RSC conference for FE. Presentations on supporting innovative teaching practice to the Learning Design Summit (Sydney), ICEM (Cyprus), Inspiring Teachers: Learning and Leading in Academic Practice (London).

Teachers and researchers attending the conferences, university ‘teaching and learning days’ and seminars, in the UK, and overseas. Policymakers, civil servants, university administrators, and vocational and skills sector trainers and developers attending conferences and workshops, and receiving policy reviews and briefings. The development of the Larnaca Declaration as a framework for Learning Design in Cyprus (Sept 2012). The design tools and the research & evaluation methods and instruments have been used in the University of Macerata, and the University of Hong Kong in developing their courses for teachers. The Learning Designer is currently being trialled in training programmes and professional development courses at the School of Pedagogical and Technological Education-ASPETE, Greece. Existing publications led to an invitation to present the findings of the project at the 13th IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (July 15-18, 2013), Beijing, China

Due to further funding by LSIS we were able to develop the "Reflect" Learning Design Resource that is accessible and usable by many individuals to find work with the tools and resources developed by the project and thus others have independently ran workshops and reported back on the experience of using the tool. The Reflect resource development also provided an example of e-portfolio approach for the impact of using such tools for continuous professional development in teaching providing both individual and collaborative development. The tools have been designed and developed in such a way that they can be used independent sources or together. for example the advice and guidance built as a wiki but integrated interactively with the tool means that the learning design knowledge guidance can be used by others and also published to enable the communities to develop learning design knowledge further and to tailor this appropriately to their needs. Consultancies on teaching innovation practice using the Learning Designer tools have been commissioned as follows: - The pedagogy design tool as a catalyst for changing teachers’ thinking about the use of e-portfolios in teacher education (Institute of Education, Hong Kong). - The Learning Designer tools as part of an institutional ‘teaching and learning’ symposium to stimulate new thinking about assessment practices, and ways of teaching online (University of Hong Kong, Temasek and Nanyang Polytechnics, Singapore). - The modelling tool for teacher workload and pedagogic impact developed as part of the Learning Designer to model the ‘flipped classroom’ for schools (GEMS Education). The further funding was achieved as a consequence of presentations to conferences and university seminars as part of our dissemination activities, which attracted government agencies wishing to promote technology innovation in teaching and learning, and saw these design tools as being the means to do that.

Further funding from LSIS enabled the team to work with JISC RSCs to provide teacher professional development in learning technologies, by adapting the Learning Designer tools and concepts for FE. Further funding from ASTRI (the Advanced Science and Technology Research Institute, Hong Kong) has now been secured to enable the learning design tools to be embedded in a VLE for schools.

Briefing on teacher innovation with learning technologies to the Commission for Adult and Vocational Teaching and Learning, drawing on the findings that teachers are able to work with the tools to experiment and share their effective teaching ideas. Recording of a Brazilian TV teacher development programme on learning design for 20,000 teachers. Panellist on ‘The Education Debates (How should we teach?)’, chaired by John Humphreys, R4. Our conference presentations attracted the attention of the LSIS and ASTRI funding bodies who wanted to take this work further.

In the initial phase of the project the ESRC advised us to work only with HE, so we had 10 Informant practitioners from different kinds of institutions in HE to develop the user specifications and requirements for the tools. Evaluation, testing, and further requirements was then conducted via individual observations, workshops and webinars, with HE teachers from a range of institutions, recruited through central learning and teaching support staff. Wider dissemination of the ideas and findings to audiences in schools and FE sectors began during the project, so that by the end we were able to attract follow-on funding from LSIS to adapt the tools to FE requirements, and embed them within the FE learning design infrastructure. More recently this strategy engaged the school sector via presentations in Hong Kong, which has led to the HK government interest in using our outputs in the development of a VLE. Conference presentations led to further interest from The Commission for Adult and Vocational Teaching and Learning, which has commissioned a briefing document to assist their work in FE, to our engagement with BIS policymakers to develop the education industry strategy. Since the end of the project, our dissemination strategy has led to invitations for a policy briefing for UNESCO, and for the Public Policy Review. These have been valuable outlets for reaching UK and EU policymakers, politicians, civil servants. The T3 conference invited talk led to invitations to work with private company trainers (not yet finalised) to update their training workforce.

The ontology has the potential to be further exploited as a framework for defining standards in the field of learning design. The main innovative features of the ontology are: ensuring the quality and effectiveness of the pedagogy adopted; improving knowledge transfer of effective practice; and enhancing the transparency and comparability of a range of learning design approaches supported by the Learning Designer. This has the potential to help education providers improve their ability to provide consistently good quality services, improve organisational effectiveness, and reduce the overall business costs of designing for learning. The project designed an inference engine using an autonomic approach for concept processing. Concepts in the Learning Designer ontology are used to categorise each learning design imported, adapted, or created within the software environment. The inference engine performs processing of concepts embedded in the user’s learning design. It uses matching techniques to finding existing learning designs that are similar to the one currently being worked on by the user, or to recommend ways in which components of the design could be better aligned to meet learning goals. As the user community develops learning designs and changes aspects of teaching and learning activities, so the inference engine creates new community-based views of the concepts space, reflecting new concept relationships, to provide a more elaborated knowledge framework for future users. Thus, through usage of the Learning Designer, community knowledge can emerge over time, adapting to the way concepts are used, re-used and adapted and also providing a means to determine which aspects of the Learning Designer are used or modified during design creation and in what way.

The Learning Designer has been adopted for training computer science graduates taking an MSc in Educational Technology as part of the project “Design, Implementation and Evaluation of Blended Learning Scenarios in a Teacher Training Context: Accommodating Individual Psychological Characteristics (BleSTePsy)”, which is funded by the Greek Ministry of Education.

The outputs from this project need to be embedded in institutional practice to have a major impact. The project met all its objectives, but to carry the outputs through to impact in teaching requires extensive work with many institutions and agencies. Our proposals for further funding and collaboration are all targeted on working with other projects and innovations in all education sectors where these are already embedded in institutions, or with sector agencies, associations and companies that have a broad impact through their work. One year is a very short time to manage this with no funding, but we are making progress.

Cite this outcome


Laurillard, Diana et al. A Learning Design Support Environment (LDSE) for Teachers and Lecturers: ESRC Impact Report, RES-139-25-0406. Swindon: ESRC


Laurillard Diana et al. A Learning Design Support Environment (LDSE) for Teachers and Lecturers: ESRC Impact Report, RES-139-25-0406. Swindon: ESRC.