Open Learning Design: Principles and Practices

Chapter image for Open Learning Design: Principles and Practices.
Authored by

Verena Roberts, Leo Havemann, and Helen DeWaard


In this contribution the authors will guide you through an exploration of first the principles and then a conceptual framework for the potential of open learning design in a variety of contexts.


To start this activity, first add your perspectives to the Open Learning Design (OLD) Jamboard where you are asked the question “What does open learning design mean to you?”


Watch the following video where Verena, Helen and Leo explore the principles for open learning design and introduce you to a conceptual framework.


Supplementary Resources to help your learning: 

  • Link to graphic on slide 17 “Personal Learning Environment – Dial It Up” by Helen DeWaard: 

Further Reading
Roberts, V., Havemann, L. & DeWaard, H. (2022). Open Learning Designers on the Margins [preprint].  In T. Jaffer, S. Govender & L. Czerniewicz (Eds.)  Learning Design Voices: Perspectives from the Margins.

Discussion Prompts

Consider the following prompts as you think about your own approach to open learning design. If you want to share a reflection or response, choose one of the four perspectives (issues, roles, lenses, settings) listed at the bottom of the page to help frame it.

  • Having viewed the video, do you think you have any open learning design experiences? What are they?
  • Has your understanding of open learning design changed as a result of watching the video and looking at the resources? 
  • Learning Design should always be open – do you agree? Why or why not?
  • Since there are no templates for open learning design, where does it start?


Digital Fluency: Fluencies are the ability to speak, read, and write in a given language quickly and easily, while competency is defined by having skills and abilities to do a job (“Competency,” OED Online; “Fluency,” OED Online). Digital fluency is the ability to quickly and easily understand the words, meanings, navigational mechanisms, common operations, stylistics, and modes of communicating through multimodal digital texts (letters, numbers, characters, icons, images, sounds, music, vocalizations, moving images, gestures, etc).

Open Educational Resources: Or OER, were defined originally as “open provision of educational resources, enabled by information and communication technologies, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for noncommercial purposes” (UNESCO, Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries [Report], 2002). 

Open Educational Practices: While these include practices that relate to OER, the term OEP embraces a wide range of “collaborative practices that include the creation, use, and reuse of OER, as well as pedagogical practices employing participatory technologies and social networks for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creation, and empowerment of learners” (Cronin, Openness and Praxis: Exploring the Use of Open Educational Practices in Higher Education, IRRODL, 2017)

We want your voice. Add Issues.

We want your voice. Add Role Perspectives.

We want your voice. Add Lenses.

We want your voice. Add Settings.


Textbooks, scholarly literature, and even current events reflected in venues ranging from social media to journalism, all present a continuous roll of issues that have topical relevance in a course setting. To use this lens dentify one or more issues that are relevant to the topic in this chapter. Issues can range very widely, from ongoing debates about privacy to public health to emerging stories about climate events.

Role Perspectives

Different roles can have an impact on interests and perspectives. For example, being a student is in itself a role – including domestic, international, full time or part time, newly matriculated or mid-career professional, along with such other possible roles as parent, administrator, educator or other areas within life outside of the educational milieu.


You may choose or be assigned to research the chapter topic from a particular lens, such as decolonization, historical justice, anti-racism, and other such anti-oppressive perspectives that centre on alternative narratives to those that present in dominant cultures. By working with a specific lens, you can research issues from a social justice perspective. In addition, the use of lenses can also encourage a focus on transdisciplinary approaches.


Many learning experiences in higher education include various forms of experiential learning intended to integrate workplace or community-based learning with formal education. Focusing on a specific setting can help focus the learning on specific settings. You may come to your studies from, or with ambitions toward, a particular industry or workplace, community setting, within education or a profession, corporate or public sector, or any of many possible disciplines. For instance, learning design in higher education is often quite different from the corporate world or within government. These settings may have an influence on the perspectives you bring and/or would like to bring to your research and course work.

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