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Learning Enhancement and Development

Session 2D - Paper 1

Hacking Human-Centred Learning Design

David Vince – The Open University, Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation

Liz Ellis – The Open University, Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation

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The Open University shares how Hack Days can be used as part of a Human Centred Design (HCD) approach to enhance teaching and learning. Human Centred Design helps staff to develop a deeper, empathetic understanding of real-world student experiences, extending established curriculum-focused learning design methodologies and the use of analytics.

This presentation shares the findings of a pilot staff-student ‘Hack Day’ held in January 2016. Hack Days employ a unique mechanism for collaborative, productive enquiry. It demonstrates the user-driven Human Centered Design (HCD) approach, which enables deeper, ethnographic insight into learners’ context, and insight into how practitioners can innovate with both pedagogy and technology to enhance and design online learning experiences.

We know that not all students respond to the learning design of a module in the same way. This presents challenges when interpreting quantitative data from learning analytics and student surveys when seeking to further enhance teaching and learning in online contexts. The Open University has an established pedagogic approach to curriculum development known as OU Learning Design. While OU Learning Design does not advocate any particular learning theory, it is informed by socio-constructivist theory (Vygotsky, 1978) and focuses around pedagogic learning objects, or mediating artefacts (Engeström, 2001), and learners’ experiences to produce learning outcomes. This consistent approach has enabled the visualisation and mapping of modules based on seven activity types, i.e. assimilative, finding and information handling, communication, production, experiential, interactive/adaptive and assessment.

Preliminary analysis on the design of 147 modules found that assimilative and assessment activities accounted for a higher proportion of student workload but initial findings suggest a negative correlation with student completion rates (Toetenal and Rienties, forthcoming 2016). The authors did not find positive correlation between other activity types (i.e. finding and information handling, communication, production, experiential and interactive/adaptive) and student outcomes. This suggests that a broader set of factors, besides learning design, should be considered in order to enhance technology mediated teaching and learning.

Participants will gain an understanding of the potential for augmenting data driven, or curriculum-led, approaches with user-centred design to enhance their teaching and learning practice in online spaces.


Engeström, Y. (2001) Expansive learning at work: toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization, Journal of Education and Work, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 133-56.

Toetenel, L. and Rienties, B. (forthcoming 2016) Analysing 157 learning designs using learning analytic approaches as a means to evaluate the impact of pedagogical decision-making, British Journal of Educational Technology.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.