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Teacher? No. Creative Learning Designer!

teacher_ no. creative learning designerI used to think I was simply a teacher. Not anymore. Throughout this course the teacher’s role is being continuosly reconstructed for me: a modern teacher is now an instructor, a facilitator, a consultant, a learning designer, and even a knowledge architect. Scary names, aren’t they? How on earth do I teach now, with all these roles in mind? No, wait … how do I instruct, facilitate, consult and design?

In this topic 4 Design for online and blended learning we discussed a number of popular teaching/learning models such as Community of Enquiry, 5-stage model, constructive alignment, scaffolding, ADDIE model to name a few. What all these models share is that they approach a student as an autonomous and active learner, collaborator and team player. This is a good starting point for a learning design of the future, but there are certainly challenges behind it.

The new learning culture will require customizing education to the learners’ needs. I like how M. Cleveland-Innes described this approach as flexible design for complex needs of students. I think I intuitively already followed the trend of blended learning design by tailoring professional English courses in my school to the customer’s profile: instead of English for hotels we created the English course for X Hotel, or instead of English for tourism we custom-made the course for the Restaurant Z. We were working closely with the client to customize the course as much as possible to match the needs of the company’s personnel. Plus all this was linked to the LMS. However, I never thought of the approach as the first step on the way to blended learning design. I never though I might think of becoming a learning designer. What a title! 😉

The use of different educational tools becomes an inseparable part of education, but again if only properly adjusted to the learner’s needs and learning outcomes. So, for me the use of digital tools supports the idea that we are moving towards the era of highly individualized learning: education for professionals who aim at learning narrow specialization. So, education will inevitably tend to go narrower and narrower, and  courses will probably have more sub-courses designed around the students’ needs. There are downsides of this individualized learning. For example, my concern is that this digitalized, tailored and highly specialized education will result into a mass creation of narrow experts who know nothing but their subject and even know little of their subject outside their narrow topic of interest. On the other hand, more unique and highly competitive experts.

But I personally support everything non-mainstream. In the globalized world with (almost) erased uniqueness in most areas of life, if learning customization will become big, I guess I will enjoy it in both teaching, learning and business!


ONL webinar 15 November 2017 Dr. Marti Cleveland-Innes

Salmon, G (2013) The Five Stage Model. [Homepage]

Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press. Chapter 1 “Conceptual framework”. PDF available here

John Biggs – constructive alignment [Homepage]

Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness (2013, August 29). Constructive Alignment
[YouTube video]. 

Photo credit:

Dmitry Ratushny

Published in ONL


  1. It certainly makes teaching a much more challenging and exciting career. You don’t always need to know the answers to everything but you need to help students work together to find the answers and help them critically analyse what they find. From the sage on the stage to the guide on the side.

  2. With experts in narrowed subjects there is an even greater need for collaborative skills, so a challenge ahead would be how to accomodate both individuality and subjectivness while teaching the value and skills of collaboration. I do not know how to accomplish that yet – but being better at learning design is a start. I truly see the benefits of having a smart, and logic blended design that incorporates both the red thread and some broader suggestions of indepth studies, that could motivate the individual learner. Well, not easy, but tempting still!

  3. I’ve done similar things, although yours seems ultra-highly tailored since you had clients, but I always re-adjust my courses to what those students are interested in, which of course, is always different than the previous semester.

    What I don’t get is how “highly individualized learning” = “narrow experts”? I can receive more specialized learning so that I learn the material just as well as someone else, but talking about fields narrowing to more specializations, then you lost me.

    For example, maybe I need to “learn by doing” (so I receive more specialized learning) than my counterpart who can learn the same material by reading a text book. But the topic is still the same; just I need more exercises or more involved learning than my counterpart.

    • admin admin

      Thanks for your thoughts. As for the tendency to narrow specialization I mean that tailored learning can lead to the greater need in narrow specialists. For example, if I am looking for an English teacher, I expect a narrow specialist in teaching Business English for company personnel who has experience in working with 45+ audience, knows relevant learning material etc. The teacher who works with 3-4-year-olds will not manage this work and vice versa. So, the need in narrow profile English leads to the growth of narrow profile English teachers. My assumption is that a similar tendency may happen in other fields as well.

  4. Hector Hector

    You are very right, being a teacher now a days is completely different to teaching 20 years ago. The information flow is quite different, and a teacher does not necessarily has to know a book by heart or “read” a lecture to the whole classroom. A teacher is more of a “facilitator, consultant and designer” as you put it above. Certainly is challenging in different ways

  5. Pirjo Pietikäinen Pirjo Pietikäinen

    Indeed! A creative learning designer is the new name for a modern teacher. Even if we know that the term teacher includes everything needed for supporting meaningful learning this new term will certainly tell the world outside what we are really doning.
    My big doubt is that again the trend would go with the applications and new tools apparing frequently. How to find the balance between learning new tools and desigining high quality learning=? The new tools are not a direct way to heaven… I have seen the previous IT trrend in teaching in 90’s and that led to a jungle of technologies implemented just because implementation was demended. Anyway, I believe that today teachers are wiser.

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