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Opinion

Working without tools

Learning Design is a relatively new field. I’m not sure if it’s a discipline, or even if its defined as profession just yet. There are certainly aspects of it being both a discipline and a profession, but there is one clear thing missing — tools.

Having spent years working adjacent to the design of learning, and now with a couple of years being deeply involved in it, I’m a bit shocked at the lack of specialised tools available. Yes, there’s a range of technologies and software available aimed at “learning” and “education”, but I’m struggling to see how they aid the design or construction of and for learning itself.

Most tools focus only the delivery and presentation of information. Some tools will provide ways for learners to interact, but there are few that will help design anything well. They tend to be “blank-page” tools, the potential to do everything but leaving it up to the user to do anything. All manner of formats and media are made available, but they just focussed on the end product and what the student sees, not on how the teacher or learning designer develops and constructs the experience.

Working in learning design is like working without tools.

A good learning designer will make do, cobbling together a workable solution from what’s available to perform their task. Just as a chef can produce a great meal with the most basic utensils, but give them specialised tools and the level of quality, and importantly consistency, goes up exponentially.

I feel that the same goes for a learning designer. It’s just that tools don’t exist. It’s not for a lack of trying. I’ve seen many cobbled together and hacked from their original purpose over the years. The tools available tend to mimic spreadsheets and Trello, post-its and butchers paper, Word and Google. But nothing in and of itself is aimed at learning design.

I want to change that. This is not about replacing the LMS or upending the current state of the education system. It’s actually about empowering the individuals we work with, of removing barriers and simplifying processes with the aim of removing the tedium of working without tools. Of manually copying and pasting and restyling, of fixing content rather than designing it properly in the first place.

Over the next couple of posts I want to explore my thoughts on the kinds of tools needed, and what it might mean to develop them.

By Tim Klapdor

Passionate about good design, motivated by the power of media and enchanted by the opportunities of technology.

2 replies on “Working without tools”

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