Unit 1: Examining Current and Emerging Models of Design


In this unit, we will examine the intersection between ‘innovation’ and ‘design’ and explore several models for designing instruction and discuss contemporary approaches for the design of learning environments. We will investigate some of the key design approaches that are discussed and used in the literature, their interconnections, their merits, and critiques against them, and how they apply to educational technology in particular, and digital learning environments more broadly.  We will also consider the designing of learning environments from the lens of innovation and transformation.

Learning Activities

  • Week 1: Activity 1 – What do we mean by ‘Innovation’ and ‘Design’?
  • Week 2: Activity 2 – Exploring Design Models
  • Week 3: Activity 3 – Critiquing Design Models



Activity 1 – What do we mean by ‘Innovation’ and ‘Design’?

Photo by Matt Ridley on Unsplash

As the prevalence and use of digital technology in education continue to expand, especially in recent months, what we know about designing environments for learning continues to evolve, and there is a growing discourse around the terminology used to describe the contemporary design of digital learning environments.  Before we get too far into the course and consider innovative ways to re-consider the designing of instruction, it is helpful to ground ourselves in some of the literature and to spend some time reflecting on what we mean by ‘innovation’ and ‘design’.

When it comes to design, the term ‘Instructional Design (ID)’ has traditionally been used to describe the field.  Rothwell et al., (2015) provide an overview of Instructional Design (ID) and summarize key assumptions and competencies related to ID and discuss several important critiques of traditional ID approaches.  More recently, we have seen the emergence of new approaches and terms such as ‘Learning Design (LD)’ which attempt to more accurately capture the discipline today.  Parchoma et al., (2020) compare the history of ID theory and practices with those of LD and examine the underlying philosophical approaches, methodologies, and design goals of each perspective.  They propose a third space for design which they argue can help us move beyond the LD and ID dichotomies.

Innovation, whether something new or a renewal of existing practices, policies, strategies, etc. is a constant in our current environment.  Brown and Green (2018) suggest that innovation in the design of learning environments typically occurs along a continuum, from evolutionary to truly transformative.  Evolutionary innovation occurs when you make adjustments and improvements to established designs, whereas transformational innovation involves radical change that impacts the whole system.  Dron (2014) examines the changes and innovations that have occurred in distance education and describes the evolution from first-generation behaviourist/cognitivist models to second-generation social constructivist models, to third-generation connectivist models, and toward the emerging fourth-generation of holist models. Veletsianos (2011) explains how technology has typically been used to replace traditional teaching and learning processes and he calls for a move towards the design of transformational learning experiences.  Campbell and Schwier (2014) provide a historical overview of ID research and practice and argue that instructional designers can be agents of social change and they are important participants in supporting innovation.

Defining ‘Innovation’ and ‘Design’

What does ‘innovation’ and ‘design’ mean to you? What link do you see between innovation and design? Based on your background and experience, how would you define these terms?  What terminology is used within your educational context?

Please record a short video (maximum three minutes) using Padlet introducing yourself so that I can get to know you all a little better, and please explain your meaning of ‘innovation’ and ‘design’ as well as the terminology the is used within your educational context.

For more information on how to use the ‘Film’ feature in Padlet, please see: Film – Capture video on Padlet, or you are also welcome to use another tool to record your video and you can then upload it to the Padlet wall.


Activity 2 – Exploring Design Models

There is a wide variety of models, theories, and approaches that are used to inform the design of learning environments.  As you review the readings, please consider the key theories and models and try to find connections and interconnections between the models.  Further, try to determine the merits of the various models/approaches to design and innovation, being mindful of the critiques others in the literature might have.

Dousey (2017) explains that researchers and practitioners have spent the past fifty years attempting to define and create models of design and provides a brief history of instructional design models, common components of models, and commonly referenced models.  Göksu et al., (2017) analyzed 113 papers on instructional design models published between 1999-2014 and found that the ADDIE model was the most preferred, followed by ARCS, Gagne and Briggs, 4C-ID, Dick and Carey, Morrison, Ross, and Kemp, the 5E Model, the Problem-based Learning (PBL) Model, the Multiple Cultures ID Model, Rapid Prototyping, the Reflexive Model, the TPACK-based ID Model, and Smith and Ragan, respectively.

Merrill (2002) provides a review of several popular instructional design theories and identifies five prescriptive principles that can be found in most instructional design theories and models. Ertmer and Newby’s (2013) article describes how behavioral, cognitive, and constructivist learning theories provide a foundation for instructional strategies and techniques and discusses the implications for instructional designers and educational practitioners.  Bates (2015) includes an overview of the ADDIE model and compares and contrasts it to the more modern approach of agile design.  He suggests that design models were initially influenced separately by classroom teaching and distance education, but over time new design models that fully exploit the unique characteristics of online learning are beginning to emerge. Bates (2015) also describes developments in open learning which have important implications for innovation and design models.

Selecting Design Models

As you can see from the readings, there is a wealth of existing models available to guide the design of learning environments.

  • What are some things to consider when selecting a design model?
  • How do you make design decisions? What role do design models and innovation play in this process?
  • Are there any design models have you found especially useful when making design decisions?

Please share your thoughts on selecting a design model on your blog, and review your peers’ posts to see what our collective experiences reveal about current design practices.  As a reminder from LRNT 521, you can think of your blog posts as critical academic reflection where you are analyzing and synthesizing as you make connections between theory and practice.  Here is an overview of critical academic writing for your reference.  Also, you may want to explore the resources on the RRU Writing Centre for a refresher.


Activity 3 – Critiquing Design Models

Brown and Green (2018) claim that the popularity of established design models can limit approaches and alternative views of design.  They suggest that existing design models may be helpful for novice designers, but for more experienced designers they may limit innovation and improvement of design.  By repeating accepted practice Brown and Green (2018) argue that we constrain experimentation which could drive forward better designs and more effective instruction.  In a survey of ID practitioners, Christensen and Osguthorpe (2004) found that only half of the respondents said they regularly use theories or models when making instructional strategy decisions and that most use multiple design strategies, and rely on interaction with others to come up with instructional solutions.

Morris (2018) provides an overview of critical digital pedagogy and states that “digital pedagogy should not be reduced to a set of best practices, tools, or interfaces.”  In this chapter, Morris puts forward a call for critical instructional design, which he describes as an approach that “prioritizes collaboration, participation, social justice, learner agency, emergence, narrative, and relationships of nurture between students, and between teachers and students.”  Morris suggests that we assume a beginner mindset and let go of our old ideas and models of instructional design so that we can re-invent and re-imagination the acts of learning and teaching and connect design work to action and change.  Harrison, De Vries, Paskevicius, and Morgan have proposed the ‘Rethink Learning Design‘ project, where they are working to develop an ‘untextbook’ in critical instructional design.  Osguthorpe et al., (2003) also comment on the moral dimensions of instructional design and argue that the design of learning environments is a moral endeavor and designers should engage in reflexive judgment to encourage higher, transformative purposes of instruction.

Redefining ADDIE through a Critical Lens

As noted in Dousey (2017), ADDIE is one of the foundational design models and it provides an overarching paradigm or framework for many subsequent models and approaches.  A recent Digital Pedagogy Lab MOOC MOOC on Instructional Design included a great activity for redefining ADDIE that encouraged participants to use the same acronym, but to dream up different words, or to redefine the existing definitions.  I thought we could adapt this activity for our purposes, so please share your ideas on the Redefining ADDIE Google Document.

Assignment 1: Critique of Design Models

The purpose of this assignment is to provide you with the opportunity to critically examine various design models used in the creation of digital learning environments.  Please see Assignment 1: Critique of Design Models (Individual) for further details of this assignment.


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