About Learning Experience Design and Development

The Learning Experience Design and Development (LXDD) team at CFL engages in the design and development of high quality learning materials for students studying via Flexible Learning (FL). In addition to working closely with faculty in the course development process, the LXDD team also offers a variety of professional development opportunities such as workshops, individual consultations and Flexible Learning resources. These resources cover areas including but not limited to course design, teaching with technology, assessment and best practices in FL.

Today, USP utilises a state-of-the-art satellite communications network, USPNet, to deliver tertiary education to people in the Pacific. Over 500 credit courses are now offered through FL representing all USP’s discipline areas. Priority is being given to offering entire academic programmes through FL mode. In the near future it will be possible to complete a full programme through FL.

FL students are provided with a mix of learning materials through various modes such as online, print, blended and face to face. These multiple modes of delivery are aimed at supporting students with their studies. USPNet along with USP’s learning management system Moodle is significantly enhancing the learning experience of students in the region.

In the beginning

In 1970, The University of the South Pacific (USP) began offering credit courses through distance education. The initiative began in a limited way, focusing primarily on courses for the Diploma in Education taken by in-service teachers in a number of USP member countries. It was based in USP’s Department of Education in the then School of Education.

By 1976 a total of 90 students were enrolled in the 16 distance courses offered. They could enrol through one of four USP Centres (Solomon Islands, Tonga, Kiribati, Cook Islands) or through the Education Department in Samoa, Niue, Vanuatu or Tuvalu. At that time, for many of the courses, students had to attend face-to-face tutorials and/or laboratory sessions at their USP Centre.

And now

Since becoming an autonomous unit in the 1970s, the USP distance education programme has expanded tremendously in both the number of courses it offers and student enrolments. For instance, in 2004 there were over 150 courses offered over three semesters, with a total enrolment of over 15,000 students. Initially called Extension Services, University Extension, and then Distance & Flexible Learning Support Centre under the Centre for Educational Development & Technology, today it is known as Learning Design & Development under the Centre for Flexible Learning.

Flexible Learning (FL) courses today are designed for independent study. Traditionally they have been print-based, sometimes incorporating other media (e.g. audio or videotapes). Increasingly, however, courses are designed for a multimedia approach to teaching and learning, and a number are offered partly or wholly online. Courses are offered at many levels, enabling students to study pre-degree (Preliminary and Foundation), sub-degree (Vocational), degree and postgraduate qualifications.

What is Learning Design?

Learning design is the practice of planning, sequencing and managing learning activities, usually using ICT-based tools to support both design and delivery (JISC 2011).

The Open University Learning Design Initiative (2012) set out to research, pilot and evaluate a rigorous learning design process, and identify what problems in curriculum design it is capable of solving. Lessons emerged include the following potential benefits of a learning design approach.

  • It acts as a means of eliciting designs from academics in a format that can be tested and reviewed by others involved in the design process, i.e. a common vocabulary and understanding of learning activities.
  • It provides a method by which designs can be reused, as opposed to just sharing content.
  • It can guide individuals through the process of creating new learning activities.
  • It helps create an audit trail of academic (and production) design decisions.
  • It can highlight policy implications for staff development, resource allocation, quality, etc.

It has the potential to aid learners and tutors in complex activities by guiding them through the activity sequence

The start – how does a course get ready to be developed at CFL?

New or revised courses and programmes normally find their way to the learning design and development team through the Academic Standards and Quality Committee (ASQC) at the Faculty or University level, Academic Programmes Committee (APC). It occurs through the steps given below.

Table 1: Steps to getting a course/programme on the LXDD portfolio

Step 1: Course writer (CW) completes a USP Course Proposal Form* from their Faculty Learning & Teaching Office and obtains sign-offs from Head of School/Department and USP Support Sections (including ITS & the Library). CW also seeks advice from CFL about Moodle support, learning outcomes and student workload related to online and blended activities while filling the form.
Step 2: Course Writer submits completed form for review to their Faculty ASQC for approval. This may be submitted further to the USP APC if the Faculty ASQC requires further approval.
Step 3: Once the course proposal is approved, the forms are submitted to CFL via the Director to the Head LXDD.
Step 4: Head LXDD compiles the portfolio of approved programmes and courses and assigns them to a learning design and development team.

*Proposals need to be completed and approved 6 months to 1 year in advance of the semester of offer.

The portfolio – How is a course queued for development?

The portfolio for learning design and development:

  • is formulated and coordinated by the Head LXDD from Faculty submissions to ASQC or APC and previous development cycles,
  • organizes the development of courses and programmes, plans and allocates the workload of learning design and development teams,
  • is released once yearly, around June-July projecting developments for the entire following year.

The purpose of providing an annual snapshot of entire programmes in the portfolio is for the teams to have a holistic approach to design and development, i.e. awareness of what courses have been developed, what needs revising and what needs to be developed for flexible learning.

The status – what are the conditions for development of a course?

In learning design, courses on the portfolio are in different states of development based on:

  • how current the content is;
  • changes to a programme that the ASQC or Senate approved;
  • the introduction or removal of a new course or programme;
  • the development cycle.

The development statuses below apply to courses in the portfolio. Occasionally, there may be instances where a course status changes due to the extent of the actual work required. This is mediated by the Head LXDD on a case by case basis.

New (N) or Revision (R):

Applies to a Blended/Online course with maximum changes.

  • A course with entirely new content.
  • A course that is out of date and most of its content requires revision.
  • Conversion from a different mode.

Minor Revision (MR):

Applies to a Blended/Online course with moderate changes.

  • Following the first 1 or 2 offers of an N/R course, it undergoes tweaks based on the team’s evaluation before its next offer.

Moodle Support (MS):

Applies to a course having a Moodle shell with minimum changes.

  • New or copied shell enabled for F/P/O/B mode courses then turned over to the Course Coordinator or Education Technologist to manage.
  • Updates and support for F/P/O/B mode courses following an MR offer.

Unrevised (U):

Applies to a Print course with minimum changes.

  • No changes to course components such as Course books, Study guides and Readers.
  • Changes to the Introduction & assignments book (I&A) in terms of calendar, dates, study schedule, assignments and sample mid semester and exam papers.

The modes – How is a developed course delivered?

At USP, the modes of course delivery (USP Handbook & Calendar 2020) are as follows:

Table 2: Definition of modes

Mode Definition
Online (O) An online course is one where 80+% is delivered online and may include some face-to-face interaction.
Blended (B) A blended (hybrid) course is one that blends online and face-to-face modes of delivery. A blended course has a substantial proportion of the content (30-79%) delivered online with some face-to-face interaction between the student and the lecturer or tutor.
Print (P) A course offered in the print mode will normally have learning resources in the form of print and online materials and may include tutorials.
Face-to-face (F) A course offered with up to two hours of lectures per week and face-to-face tutorials during the semester of offer. These courses may include any specified laboratory or field work, and utilise Moodle as a learning management system

The cycle – what is the shelf-life of a developed course?

Courses preferably go through a development cycle at CFL. This cycle is flexible because of extenuating circumstances such as staff availability and faculty processes. The learning experience design and development processes continue to ensure that course content is up-to-date. As a guide, course content should not be more than 3 years old. This is sometimes mode dependent. Exceptions can be made for disciplines and programmes where content is standard, durable, requires frequent updating or needs to adhere to accreditation requirements or external review recommendations.

The development time – what is the development time for a course?

Development times for online and blended courses vary. There are many factors involved which are determined by the complexity of courses. For instance, the time it takes to develop an online course may depend on the type of course, learning experience design, experience levels and technological support. In addition, creating an entirely new course from scratch or converting an existing course requires time and planning to ensure effective engagement of students.

At CFL, we promote the use of Open Educational Resoruces for developing/revising a course. You can refer to USP’OER policy http://policylib.usp.ac.fj/form.readdoc.php?id=736 for more information

Here is a general guideline commonly used in the literature for online and blended course development:

Table 3: Estimated development time by type of course

Type Estimated development time
New fully online course (N) Minimum of 240-360 hours (8-12 weeks)
Conversion of existing course (R) Minimum of 120-180 hours (4-6 weeks)
Blended or hybrid course (MR) Minimum of 80-120 hours (2-4 weeks)
Blended & online course (MS) Minimum of 4-80 hours (1/2 day-2 weeks)

*The more media elements (audio, video, graphics, and animations) are used, the more time it will take to develop a course.

The workload – how much work does a team do in course development?

The workload for each team varies depending on the responsiveness of the Faculties to learning design in terms of CW availability/progress and approvals processes.

Each learning design team is allocated between 5-7 USP programmes annually. These are mainly undergraduate programmes in line with the objectives of the Strategic Plan. Not all of the courses in these programmes will require substantial work by the team.

The progress – how is course development monitored?

The progress of the portfolio depends on the team’s consistency with proper planning, good communication, documentation and a responsive Course Writer. Ultimately it is about “keeping things moving”. This feeds back to the Head LXDD on a monthly basis in the form of:

  • the CFL Course Manager, or
  • a progress report emailed to the Secretary LXDD (if the Course Manager is down).

The Head LXDD follows up flagged or potentially problematic courses or issues with the respective teams. Depending on the severity of the situation, e.g. non responsive Course Writer, late submission of content, it is then escalated to the Head of Department/School if necessary.

The evaluation – how is course development evaluated?

At the end of each development period, individual teams with the Head LXDD should evaluate:

  • what worked well in the development period?
  • what did not work well in the development period?
  • what enhancements could be made?

A group discussion is recommended for this evaluation where the individual team, as well as the Head LXDD can be evaluated in a constructive, non-threatening environment.

Alternatively, the entire learning design and development team can have an evaluative discussion session of the development period.

The quality assurance – what are the quality assurance mechanisms in the course development process?

USP through CFL is an institutional member of Quality Matters. The QM’s Higher Education rubric and internal self-review processes are used to review and audit the quality of course design.

All developed courses by CFL needs to meet the essential QM standards.


Sera Caginitoba
Secretary – LXDD
Tel: (679) 323 2105
Email: sera.caginitoba@usp.ac.fj

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