Week 6: Design Models – Winter 2023


So far in this course, we have:

  • Considered the continuum of possibilities for locations of learning, from distance education through various forms of blended learning;
  • Considered the importance of a congruent structure in educational experiences, where the learning intentions are reflected in activities and assessment;
  • Reflected on the educational theory you find most useful in teaching in your area;
  • Developed a systematic way to evaluate technology that might be useful for teaching in your subject area or at your grade level.

Over the next several weeks, it is time to put the pieces together and develop a unit or lesson that incorporates these ideas. This process will be the basis for your Final Project. Refer to the assignment instructions for additional details.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the section, you will be able to:

  • use a systematic approach to plan a congruent unit of instruction

Learning Activities

Designing an Educational Experience

There are many factors to keep in mind as you design an educational experience for a group of students at any level. Available resources, subject area, student experience, instructional context—all of these factors, and many more, inform the approach you will take to designing the experience. Just as it is helpful to bring a systematic approach to the selection of media and technology, it is helpful to bring a systematic approach to lesson creation.

There are many approaches to the design of instruction, and a full exploration of any of them is beyond the scope of this class. Instructional design is a professional field, with practitioners working everywhere from corporate training departments to online course development units in colleges, university, technical schools, and in many places in between. Outside of the formal discipline of instructional design, however, teachers at every level incorporate instructional design into their practice: planning lessons, developing curriculum, and so on.

For this course, we will think about three overlapping approaches to instructional design:

  • Design thinking
  • The ADDIE model
  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Design thinking is described in several different ways, but essentially it is a five-step process:

  1. Empathize: Develop empathy with the people who will be using what you are designing. Talk to them. Find out what they want and need.
  2. Define: After developing empathy, spend time defining the problem your project will address.
  3. Ideate: It is now time to brainstorm. How could you achieve the solution you have defined?
  4. Prototype: Choose one of the ideas you have identified, and make a prototype—a quick model, in other words—of how it will work.
  5. Test: Test your prototype. Expect to go back to the previous stage again for further refinement.

The following InSync Training video provides a good introduction to design thinking:

An Introduction to Design Thinking

InSyncTrainingLLC. (2017, March 31). An introduction to design thinking. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cm4rbfa8tCM

The ADDIE model is often used in instructional design. In Bates’s book, Section 4.3 introduces the ADDIE model. It is also a five-step process:

  1. Analyze: Identify the variables that might influence the course design, including the subject, the learner profile, and so on.
  2. Design: Come up with an approach that you think will meet the learner’s needs.
  3. Develop: Build what you have designed, incorporating media and technology as required.
  4. Implement: Introduce the new product, run the course, or teach the lesson as it was intended.
  5. Evaluate: Look back at the beginning of the process, and formally investigate whether or not the instructional design met the needs of the people you designed it for.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

UDL becomes most relevant once you’ve identified your content focus. It is an approach to focusing not just on the content, but on the development of the learners themselves through the ways they engage with the content. The goals of UDL are to develop learners as individuals who are purposeful and motivated; resourceful and knowledgeable; and strategic and goal-directed. UDL is most frequently discussed in the context of K-12 study, and it is an important approach when the goal is to develop an accessible classroom. The principles of UDL are intended to ensure that learning is possible for the maximum number of people. This means that options are provided in the way that learners are engaged in the content, in the ways that content is represented, and in the ways learners are encouraged to take action and express their understanding. As a simple example, a piece of content might be presented as text, in a video, or presented as part of a discussion (representation). Students may use the content as the basis for a speech, they may test it in an experiment, or use it to create a work of art. This variety makes it more possible for different individuals to internalize the content and ultimately be able to apply it.

CAST, the organization that promotes UDL, focuses on children and their learning experiences. It is, however, an approach that is applicable in other contexts. It’s directly applicable in any formal educational context, and also useful in situations like on-the-job training. In general, learning is enhanced when content is represented in multiple ways to learners who are engaged with the content and are given various ways to demonstrate their understanding and use what they have learned.

Review the UDL Guidelines. They will be useful to you as you design your unit of learning, and as you provide feedback to your colleague

An example of evaluating technology

To see how one of these models work, we will reflect on the activity we just completed in Module 4 where we evaluated a technology-based application by applying a checklist or series of questions to determine the value of a selected educational resource. Here is how the ADDIE process was applied.


A big challenge with educational technology is to find the best tool to use, rather than finding any tool; there are many, many examples.

Based on experience from previous years, course participants teach in different subject areas and at levels ranging from elementary school to college. They have different levels of expertise with educational technology. This variety of experience can be an advantage, encouraging participants to examine their own ideas from multiple perspectives.

All participants will have access to online resources.

Development of the tool for evaluating technology must allow for flexibility, while still being something that allows different tools to be compared.

Since participants have very different levels of experience and teach in different areas, there is not a lot of value in the instructor imposing a single approach for evaluating technologies. It would not likely be useful for everyone and could be quite frustrating.


The analysis of context led the designer to conclude that a facilitated discussion was a good approach for developing a checklist or other tool for evaluating technology.

To ensure that everyone had an opportunity to contribute to the discussion, readings from the textbook were provided to give everyone background information.


Development consisted of:

    • Identifying “must have” components for the checklist.
    • Developing a discussion-starter question.


Since the activity is being developed and the steps documented well before the course begins, an implementation plan is discussed here rather than the actual implementation:

    • The instructor will check the discussion forums morning and evening during the week while the checklist is being developed and will update the checklist—in Google Docs, tentatively—as components are added.
    • At the end of the week, the instructor will check in with students to see if the list/tool is useful for its purpose.


An evaluation activity (e.g., quick discussion) will be conducted after students have a chance to apply the checklist. Changes will be made if required before the next offering of the course.

An example of designing an educational experience

Based on this background work with ADDIE, here is a blueprint for the course section:


Activity description:

Participants in a graduate course in education work together to develop an evaluation tool for educational technology; they will later apply the tool.

Anticipated learning outcomes:

Participants will learn to evaluate educational technology options for use in classes efficiently and quickly.

Activity approach:

Working together, develop a tool (e.g., a checklist, list of questions, or a combination of the two) to evaluate each app or other technology-based resource. Then, apply the tool to an example for two reasons: to create the beginnings of a database of colleague-reviewed technology and to test the value of the tool.

Technology to use:

  • Collaborative document (Google Docs?)
  • Threaded discussion (within course software)
  • Survey software (within course software? Depends what we are using) to evaluate the activity
  • Websites with possibilities for technology (not required; people can just search the app store, but handy to provide some guidance)

Activity details:

Week 1: participants will complete background readings and contribute their ideas to the discussion forum. Instructor will facilitate discussion, probing for details when necessary. Instructor will begin the collaborative document to begin the checklist/tool. Participants will be encouraged to add their contributions to the collaborative document. (Note: It might not be necessary to use both the discussion forum and the collaborative document; this depends how much discussion there is.)

Week 2: Participants will use the tool to evaluate an app or other ed tech of their choice. Results will be assembled (into a wiki? Database? Not sure what will be available that will be lasting.) At the close of Week 2, participants will be given a link to a mini-survey about the experience.

Considering UDL

There are some ways in which the development of this tool mirrors the flexibility of the UDL approach.

  • Engagement: The objective of the activity is to develop a tool that will be useful for the purposes of the course, and also beyond the course. This enhances the relevance of the activity.
  • Representation: In some ways the activity works well here. It encourages everyone to think about patterns as they think at a high level about what is really relevant in education technology tools in their setting. Because of the focus on a checklist, however, it doesn’t really allow for alternative means of expression. The discussion forum and document as the means of creating the checklist is lso a limitation. It would perhaps be useful and not difficult to encourage participants to use video conferencing to discuss the topics to include. (This can pose other challenges, given time and distance, but could still be possible.)
  • Action and Expression: This activity does not match easily with UDL’s goals of providing options in action and expression, except insofar as flexibility for participation could be built in. The task is to create a tool for everyone to use, and it is conceptualized in a single form – a checklist.

Learning Activities

Discussion: Learning Design Models

Make sure you have reviewed the resources provided in the overview (Section 4 in Bates’, Design Thinking and the UDL guidelines). Also read the following overview of different design models written by Gráinne Conole, from the National Institute for Digital Learning in Ireland. This article will provide further examples and considerations beyond the models provided in this module.

Conole, G. (2018). Learning Design and Open Education. International Journal of Open Educational Resources, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.18278/ijoer.1.1.6

Reflect on your own teaching or learning experiences and your past approaches to design. Which model best reflects your approach? What do you see as the benefits or limitations of each? Write a short post in the Discussion forum for this week outlining your early thoughts, pose any questions you might have, and consider how you might incorporate these formal design models into your thinking.

Go to the class discussion forum to make your post.

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