CPD activity case studies 2023

CPD Activity 1. Design methodology

Summary of learning

What I intended to learnApproaches to design and development at scale with a large team.
What I learnedCommon languages for design thinking.
Design approaches can apply to all parts of the student experience, not just learning activities. 
What was the change in my practiceProgramme-level thinking for design and student learning.
Drawing upon the double-diamond model to bridge academic and learning design approaches.
Future directionModule design approach tailored to Leeds.
The use of empathy mapping for the holistic student learning journey.

I have practised ABC learning design (Young and Perović, 2016) since 2017 and have adapted this process with a content mapping stage before the more abstracted activity design, which I found useful with multiple author projects and working with non-educators in professional learning settings. Prior to moving to the University of Leeds I wished to explore more fundamental design methods to consider not just the design of learning, but also the design of full programmes and processes to support complex long term development projects.

Summary of activity

  • Participation and Completion of Transforming Digital Learning: Learning Design Meets Service Design, Deakin University.
  • Understanding the design-led thinking behind institutional strategy for curriculum redevelopment (Grabill, et al., 2022).
  • Discussion with Marles Gration (Derby, Nottingham) and other Heads of Learning Design on design models and approaches used in scaling up online education design and development.
  • Leading a significant change programme within my team.


Exploring design thinking has supported me to contribute to discussions for scaling up online learning at Leeds. The Deakin short course introduced me to the need to address the separation of learning design from the broader picture of the student experience at university:

“Design activity in education has fragmented into two rather separate areas: macro-level work on educational planning and administration and micro-level work on instructional design… there is – as yet – very little awareness of how service design and innovation strategies can be used to tackle the complex problems thereby entailed, and to connect macro, meso and micro levels.”

(Carvalho and Goodyear, 2018, p.31)

In participating in activity across services working on scaling up online learning, connecting the infrastructure and systems processes with the learning activity is not easy to achieve, where different teams have a different view of ‘the user journey’ or ‘user experience’. The design thinking approaches have helped me present arguments in cross-service working from the students’ perspective. In the work I am doing currently on establishing programme-level design, I am deliberately connecting the dependencies and outputs from academic design activities (which I am involved in) with the broader services including finance, marketing and student support. 

Also within the Deakin short course, an interview with Arun Pradhan encouraged understanding the stories of those we design with and for. A concept which carries through into learning design. Pradhan also championed failing fast and adopting lo-fi prototyping to enable iteration and discussion. I’ve come to realise the benefit of this fail fast approach as a way of uncovering assumptions and mis-aligned perspectives on shared goals. I have encouraged my team to share drafts of work early, to get feedback and input from a range of stakeholders, rather than holding on to work near completion. Through this we have been able to calibrate projects earlier on. Examples include process maps and module outlines. I have also championed the inclusion of prototyping on platform as part of our core design and development process.

My learning on design thinking is translating into leadership action with a conscious decision to re-focus the team away from ‘content creation’ and to reprioritise time in programme-level design, module design and learning experience design. This is also about shifting approaches that are based on single course design to more holistic programme approaches. The double diamond model was introduced to me by Marlies Gration and also by my team in workshops to explore a move to a design-led approach, reflecting the relevance and potential for this type of design language. In exploring how we can address opportunities to hear the stories of our academic partners, the divergence part of design, I’ve reflected on the role of our design principles to bring convergence (illustrated in these slides). Refocusing the team on design, rather than content, is an ongoing process with significant impact on the roles and responsibilities within the team. I hope to be discussing this at upcoming ALT events, subject to acceptance of my abstract.


  • Carvalho, L. and Goodyear, P. (2018). Design, learning networks and service innovation, Design Studies, 55, 27-53.
  • Grabill, J. T., Gretter, S., and Skogsberg, E. (2022). Design for Change in Higher Education. 
  • Young, C. and Perović, N. (2016) Rapid and Creative Course Design: As Easy as ABC? Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 228, 390-395.

CPD Activity 2. Emphasising collaboration

Summary of learning

What I intended to learnExamples of latest learning technology and how they may apply to online education.
What I learnedA shift in my professional identity towards leadership and strategy does not need to substitute my passion for the impact of education.
A need to recentre discussions on the human aspects of digital education.
What was the change in my practiceEmbedding collaboration and partnership in the direction for my team.
Future directionPositive pedagogies approach to support the holistic student experience.
Repurpose model that enables context-driven adaptation.

I’ve categorised this CPD activity as emphasising collaboration as I frequently talk about collaboration as underpinning my professional practice. Since moving into a senior leadership role in digital education, I have spent considerably more time on processes, business activity, budgets and people management. Attending conferences is an opportunity to see case studies, pilots and new technologies. It’s also enabled me to stay grounded in the true purpose of my work, which is enabling learning with technology and with greater access for a wide range of learners through online education. The learning I explore here put collaboration back to the front of my professional practice and values, and helped to rekindle my passion for digital education.

Summary of activity


From the Jisc Digifest event, there were a few case studies of practice that I am looking forward to adopting into future work, notably the ideas of positive pedagogies (Jisc, 2021) and context-relevant use of VR (Jones, 2022) which will come through a deeper exploration of discipline pedagogies for meaningful use. I summarised my overall impression of a shift in language about digital education in my report to colleagues:

“Across all keynotes there was a distinct emphasis on ensuring the ‘human’ aspect of education is not lost to digital technologies. If anything, there was more discussion about human interactions, the value of communities and enabling individuals to learn in a personalised way than any focus on technology as a disruptor or innovation. This is a reflection of many technologies being ‘normalised’ and perhaps a reflection on pandemic education at a distance.”

(Internal Document)

As Lorna Campbell conveyed at the ALT Conference, “there is no back to normal”. Within my team we are encountering the impact of academic experience with ‘emergency’ online education and needing to reset discussions to focus less on content transmission and online pivot design, back to planning for student interaction, discussion, perhaps a slower more personalised approach to learning online. That comes through my team taking a strong leadership position in designing for learning and online learning environments, reflecting the different needs of distance, adult learners. To do this effectively requires an understanding of the stories behind both academic experience of online education and their discipline-centred educational direction. Providing space and time to explore discipline teaching and learning approaches, allowing academic story telling, helps learning designers and learning technologists better understand how we can bring our skills and knowledge to enable academic aims. These are discussions about human beings, motivations and aspirations.

Thomson (2022) articulated this through a reframing of the TPACK framework towards subject, pedagogy and modality. I’ve conveyed Thomson’s SPAM framework to my team to shift and initiate discussions about the subject, rather than pedagogical frameworks or educational technology. Initial feedback from teams is positive as we learn from academic colleagues’ experience of the discipline and adopt a collaborative approach, rather than pushing forward a set of predetermined templates and design models.

I’ve captured my learning from both these events through a blog post that pushes against each profession in education attempting to wave their own flag, towards one that emphasises the need for us to work together towards common goals. Whilst the implication to de-hero roles may seem contentious for some, for me it’s an important reflection of my experiences and attitudes that allow me to work in partnership with others. This partnership approach is a strong message that I am adopting through leadership of my team.

The ALT Conference provided other opportunities for learning that affected me more personally as well as provided insight for future activity. Alizadeh and Wilson (2022) presented a non-MS Teams, non-Zoom model for synchronous online student teaching using a 2D virtual world environment, Gather. It was a reminder to me that online education can be fun! The platform brought personality, colour, gamified qualities, each of which heightened engagement and were appropriate for the intended students. The alignment of environment to use has stimulated my thinking about specific CPD platforms, rather than the institutional VLE for professional learning. A future activity is to set up an online space that enhances the professional learning experience and professional communities, similar to the tailored competency-based learning environments set up at Nottingham and within two pioneering Schools at Leeds driving forward professional education.

Goshtasbpour et al. (2022) demonstrated the value of open education to achieve change and empowerment across borders, and rekindled my professional purpose as an educationalist and enabler collaborating with academic colleagues. This session provided an excellent example of how to maximise initial investments through reuse and repurpose, by developing a package of learning activities and materials which form the basis of an experience and then contextualised in different situations. With a new high-risk programme currently being scoped, although there is a cost efficiency of designing for one platform, the uncertainty of delivery mechanism leads me to a recommendation for xAPI packages using rapid authoring tools (Evolve; Rise) and non-technical educator repurposable content presentation (Sway; Spark). For other courses though, unpackaging materials into readily editable content by non-technical specialists is a step forward in enabling open educational resources and flexibility of reuse, in line with our institutional policy.


  • Alizadeh, M. and Wilson, N. J. (2022). Remote learning and collaboration in a
  • metaverse-based platform: students’ perspectives. ALT Annual Conference, Manchester, 6-8 September 2022.
  • Goshtasbpour, F., Pitt, B., Ferguson, R., Cross, S. and Whitelock, D. (2022). Open Learning and OER Remix: delivering a large-scale national professional development programme in Kenya. ALT Annual Conference, Manchester, 6-8 September 2022.
  • Jisc (2021). Positive digital practices as presented by Lister, K., Coughlan, T., Mote, K. and Hutton, L. (2022). Exploring positive digital practices. Jisc Digifest, Birmingham, 8-9 March 2022.
  • Jones, S. (2022). The 2030 learning landscape. Keynote. Jisc Digifest, Birmingham, 8-9 March 2022.
  • Thomson, S. (2022). SPaM – A Framework for Hybrid Education. Capitalising on the potential for post-pandemic multi-modal teaching and learning. ALT Annual Conference, Manchester, 6-8 September 2022.

CPD Activity 3. Microcredential ecosystem

Summary of learning

What I intended to learnThe value of microcredentials for professional learners.The design of microcredentials.
What I learnedIn the UK the policy context is establishing to allow longer term credit accumulation, which now needs reflecting in institutional policy.
Programme design and competency based assessment provide different routes for professional learning.
Educational technology has a significant role to play in discovery of opportunities and record of learning.
What was the change in my practiceA change in my leadership approach to set aspirations and long term direction, without expecting to have answers to all questions or resolution to all problems.
A design model that detaches academic assessment and open access learning, whilst reusing learning content and activities.
Future directionEstablishing the policy and operational environment for microcredentials at the University.

At the FutureLearn Partner Forum in 2022, I co-presented with the Dean for Online and Professional Learning to set the University direction publicly and with confidence that we would tackle the challenges to deliver microcredentials (Shiflett and Cornock, 2022). I asserted that we had entered the year of the microcredential. Indeed, the recognition by the QAA for microcredential guidance seemed like a turning point. I elaborated further at the FutureLearn Authoring and Administration Group on the growing policy enablers and academic potential for microcredentials in professional learning (Cornock, 2022). I felt there were still many unanswered questions on operationalising microcredentials and some fundamental learning design approaches yet to be proven.

Summary of activities

  • Presentations at FutureLearn Partner Forum (slides available) and FutureLearn Authoring and Adminstration Group (slides available).
  • Discussion with Nick Mount, University of Nottingham on their competency-based online education model.
  • Analysis of QAA Microcredentials Characteristic Statement and reflections captured in blog article: Microcredentials gain status and find their value for lifelong learners.
  • Discussion with academic colleagues at Leeds and the OU on microcredential ambitions.
  • Attendance at THE Digital Universities UK 2023 sessions on microcredentials.


It wasn’t until initial design workshops on new degree programmes with external platform partners that I began to understand the possibilities for microcredential design. FutureLearn reframed sequences of open short courses as the foundation for stackable microcredentials, using closed capstone assessment courses to provide the academic facilitation, university resource access and credit bearing assessment. This rethinking of assessment builds upon my prior work at STEM Learning pioneering ExpertTracks on FutureLearn in 2021 (Secondary Science ExpertTrack) with self and peer-assessment that learners complete over a series of courses. On Coursera, the platform can bring completion of open activities directly into academic modules, showing how the learning environment and design of learning can be closely integrated. These models provide the basis for discussions on stackable programmes at Leeds (slide in appendix; redacted for public portfolio). For this to be successful is dependent on platforms that enable a seamless and self-directed student user experience.

Nottingham’s investment in a full digital architecture is one such experience. Their combination of platforms to support competency based accreditation and portfolios, demonstrates the benefits of a design-led ecosystem that is dependent on an understanding of how technology and education interplay. Learning also from Maina (2023) on the mapping of formal learning against programme outcomes and professional skills, with learners presenting versions of their portfolio for different audiences (one for academic credit, another for employers) highlighted further the dependency between systems, educational purpose and learner needs. What these have both taught me is the impact of student-centred design decisions on the learning experience and infrastructure needed. There are parallels to the decisions I supported for one of our Schools to adopt a highly visually designed content presentation for their degree programmes. Whilst for other disciplines, this attention to the platform experience is often secondary, in this instance it is of importance to demonstrate the discipline learning. 

As yet, I’ve not progressed the microcredential concept into institutional policy. This is largely down to prioritising scaling up for full programmes. However, I have considered the role of microcredentials in terms of the design for learner needs and wider portfolio strategy, conveying this to my team to help consider how we design for repurpose and different online learners. I continue to see a place for the design of open courses and degree programmes to be aligned, and explored this in a blog article: The evolving role of open online courses in lifelong learning journeys

The operational aspects of managing open access learners progress across courses and ensuring availability of institutional accounts to access library and discipline specific resources will require investment in staff and technical integrations. As identified from the In the immediate term I would like to focus on the repurpose of programme development into short courses. This will provide learning about how students can build a foundation of understanding prior to working towards credit bearing study. In considering longer term learning journeys, the place for microcredentials as part of institutional strategy also becomes clear: Online education portfolio strategy and learning design.


  • Cornock, M. (2022). Creating the microcredential ecosystem. FutureLearn Authoring & Administration Group. 13 October 2022.
  • Maina, M. (2023). Extending students’ skills and employability with micro-credentials. Digital Universities UK, Leeds, 17-20 April 2023.
  • Shiflett, K. H., and Cornock, M. (2022). The stackable future. Lightning talk. FutureLearn Partners Forum, London, July 2022. 

Next: Future plans (2023)