Module 1.2: Building capacity to effectively design and bring about digital education experiences

Landing the Concept
Take Action
Test Yourself

Landing the Concept

Over the last few years, the idea of education understood as ‘teaching’ in a narrow way has given ground to a broader view of education as the provisioning of learning experiences to students, in which teachers are responsible for the design of opportunities to help their students learn the curriculum. The rise of digital technologies has expanded the scope of learning experience design to cover not just content, materials or isolated technological artefacts, but the learning environment as a whole (Wasson & Kirschner 2020).

Educators are responsible for curating or orchestrating key elements that form such contexts for learning, often collaborating with other professionals (e.g. learning technologists, instructional designers, librarians). They rely on infrastructures provided or supported by their institutions (some of which are likely to be mandatory) and, in some circumstances, they might also choose to use technologies offered by third parties (e.g. social media).

Educators and learners operate within complex information ecologies, which can be understood as systems of people, practices, values, and technologies operating within situated contexts and communities (Nardi and O’Day 1999,Wang 2021). On the one hand, HE institutions have built their own digital ecosystems, made of tools and platforms that their educators are required, or at least expected, to use when designing learning experiences and delivering teaching. On the other hand, the learners (and educators) configure their own Personal Learning Environments (PLE), that may go well beyond what is provided or recognised by the institutions, as “a self-driven digital learning space that is unique to its maker, author, or initiator, and composed of one or more technological artifacts, tools, or platforms” (Dabbagh & Castañeda 2020).

As part of Digital Education Strategies, it is more important than ever for university leaders to ensure that they make well-informed decisions on the set of technologies that make up the digital ecosystems of their institutions, in alignment with a clear pedagogical vision for the educational values and practices underpinning how their communities are expected to engage in teaching, learning and assessment. But beyond the composition of those digital ecosystems, it is equally important to make sure that a pedagogical vision is effectively communicated to educators and that they have a clear understanding of how they are expected to make use of the different technologies available to them.  

Apart from making educators aware of the different components of their institutions’ digital ecosystem (identifying which ones are core or supported, as opposed to those simply recognised or approved for use), it is also essential to offer guidance and training on how to make use of those elements in their practice in order to design and deliver effective and engaging digital learning experiences and assessments. Research suggests that there is not an ideal mix of types of learning activities and resources (e.g. articles, videos, discussions, quizzes) that work equally well for all learners (Rizvi et al. 2022), so it is important for educators and institutions to understand what works best in their own contexts and communicate to students the pedagogical vision driving their Digital Education Strategy.

The level of freedom and support that educators might have when it comes to using components from their institutions’ digital ecosystems vary widely across contexts, but it is always important to consider ethical and legal implications of educational technologies that students are required to use as part of their learning, especially when having to resort to online infrastructures that are not recognised as part of the edtech ecosystem of their institution.

We invite you know to explore how Coventry University (UK) has approached these challenges, by taking look at:

  1. The values of digital teaching and learning articulated by the Coventry way: active, applied, social & inclusive: 
  2. An overview of the Coventry EdTech ecosystem:
  3. The Teaching Kknowledge base created as one-stop shop containing everything that Coventry educators need to know in order to adopt the pedagogical values of the Coventry way when designing learning experiences articulated around its EdTech Ecosystem: In particular, we recommend you to take a look at the content within the Learning Design section:
  4. [Optional / Bonus resource] The Online Teaching Manifesto drafted by the Digital Education group at the University of Edinburgh

Take Action!

Now that you have seen the example of Coventry University, we invite you to reflect on your own context with the help of the following exercises:

  1. Use this canvas to identify the key technologies that constitute the digital ecosystem available to teaching staff in your own institutional context. For instance, to consider which units are in charge of different elements of the ecosystem, which feedback systems, reward and accreditation mechanisms (e.g. badges), and what are possibilities for enhancing the ecosystem. Feel free to adapt it (e.g you may rename the sectors or merge some of them) as needed to fit your own institutional context.
  2. Write a post outlining the key topics that should be covered in a Teaching Knowledge Base for your institution.
  3. [Optional / Bonus activity] Write a post commenting on the three to five statements of the Edinburgh Online Teaching Manifesto that you found most meaningful and relevant to your own context and explain why.

Test Yourself


  • Dabbagh, N., & Castaneda, L. (2020). The PLE as a framework for developing agency in lifelong learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 68(6), 3041–3055.

  • Nardi, B. A., & O’Day, V. (1999). Information ecologies: Using technology with heart. MIT Press.

  • Rizvi, S., Rienties, B., Rogaten, J., & Kizilcec, R. F. (2022). Beyond one-size-fits-all in MOOCs: Variation in learning design and persistence of learners in different cultural and socioeconomic contexts. Computers in Human Behavior, 126, 106973.

  • Wang, P. (2021). Connecting the parts with the whole: Toward an information ecology theory of digital innovation ecosystems. Mis Quarterly, 45(1).

  • Wasson, B., & Kirschner, P. A. (2020). Learning Design: European Approaches. TechTrends, 64(6), 815–827.