Provocation 1

What might learning design become in the post-COVID university?

Higher EducationLearning Designlearning designer role
In this provocation, Sue explores the field of learning design, where it has come from and how it has shaped the field. Questions of learning designer identity and roles come into play, and how this will look in the future in universities.


As the world emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, universities face fundamental questions about their future. Across the world, in-person activities fundamental to the campus experience were replaced by emergency remote online learning and teaching. The pandemic also disrupted global flows of students and the funding they bring, particularly in the Global North and countries like Australia. Before the pandemic, universities were already facing a set of major challenges – including the retreat of public funding, increasing corporate influence, meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse student population, and changing societal expectations of the role of universities. All these challenges are set within wider social drivers of the evolving future of work and digitalisation across all aspects of life, together with the challenge of addressing inequality and marginalisation. There was already recognition of the need to be more “agile” and of the need for change. In many ways, the pandemic has forced a set of rapid changes and removed the need to convince stakeholders of the urgency to do so. Within this changed university world, what might learning design become in order to address a new set of challenges for students and lecturers? If universities don’t return to ”normal”, or at least not for a long time, what could learning design be in a post-COVID university? How could the future be different, and better, if learning design could be reimagined and pursued differently to what has previously occurred and been advocated? 

In anticipating possible futures, it is useful to appreciate where learning design has come from, having been shaped by the long histories of instructional design and educational technology, and more recently informed by wider traditions in design thinking and practice from fields outside education. Grounded in my own perspective based in Australia, I begin this chapter with a brief retrospective sweep and go on to outline the differing understandings of learning design that currently co-exist and consider the role and purpose of learning design within the contemporary university. Next, I explore a series of conundrums facing learning design by examining some of the assumptions about who does learning design, how and for what ends, as well as where it sits within an organisation and how it is resourced. These conundrums go to questions of identity and practice, as well as being matters of choice within institutions with practical implications. In closing, I attempt to map possible future scenarios for learning design within universities and consider futures for individuals, institutions and the field of learning design. 

Locating this chapter as a learning design voice 

In locating this chapter within the provocation of “learning design as a field, praxis and identity”, I’ve taken on the notion of providing a “voice” literally. I’ve shaped this chapter as something of a scholarly memoir, in which I acknowledge how my interpretation of learning design has been shaped by my own history in the field – beginning as a content writer and designer of educational multimedia, then becoming a university lecturer and researcher who has increasingly taken on leadership roles in my institution and the field. I’ve adopted this approach in appreciation of arguments advanced by colleagues, that in educational technology we are not sufficiently aware of the history of our field (e.g. Selwyn, 2012; Weller, 2020), and which I suggest extends to our own personal “histories” within that. Acknowledging our subjectivities in this way is important because the activities captured within the term “learning design” have always been many things to many people. Views of learning design depend on who does it, what they do and where they are located in an organisation or in a practice, as well as who makes and shapes how learning design is defined and delineated. This means that there have always been, and there continues to be, different ideas about what learning design is and should be. 

In line with the desire of the editors of this volume to “listen more closely to voices from the historical margins”, I reflect that I have been privileged to pursue my entire career within the Australian university system, which, though geographically distant, is strongly connected to the academic and disciplinary worlds of the Northern Hemisphere. Those connections have provided me with opportunities to engage with the dominant discourses, while also being on the periphery. In my experience, being located at a geographical distance can afford space for critique and stimulus to innovate in a sufficiently different national context. For Australia, as a country with an increasingly diverse population and a history of colonisation, there is still much to do to create a more inclusive society. In relation to learning design, this includes the ongoing work to embed indigenous knowledges in curriculum and pedagogy (Funk, 2021; Kennedy et al., 2019), and also to engage with peoples from more recent waves of migration who have not previously been present in Australia’s higher education system.  

More broadly, in the learning design literature there is under-representation of scholarship from African, Asian and South American contexts. The conceptual and empirical foundation for learning design privileges dominant cultures and approaches, which can negatively affect the engagement and educational outcomes of learners from non-dominant cultural backgrounds (Chen & Bennett, 2012; Rizvi et al., 2022a). And, consistent with earlier studies highlighting the influence of contextual factors on learning design (e.g. Bennett et al., 2015), recent research from school and higher education illustrates how cultural context shapes learning design decisions, processes and outcomes (Boer & Asino, 2022; Pallitt et al., 2018). There are many variations of the complex interplay between the cultural backgrounds and contexts of the lecturers designing and the learners interpreting those designs – international students travelling to study in foreign countries, online education engaging diverse learners from across the globe, increasing cultural diversity in many nations and the influence of “Western” educational traditions across the world. More inclusive education requires that more diverse perspectives from other systems and traditions are drawn into the conversation. This is overdue and will be a great benefit, and will require great care and commitment to opening the field to new ideas, conversations and possibilities.  

I would also like to suggest that there are forms of marginalisation within the dominant discourse of learning design, that if addressed could help to deepen, sharpen and challenge our thinking. These relate to how those who currently do learning design work are regarded and positioned within universities, how those who are designed for are engaged, and how dominant ideas in the field shape what we can see (and what we can’t) as possibilities for the future. After exploring some of the history and current state of learning design as I see it, I’ll come back to expand on this suggestion in more detail in the concluding section of this chapter.  

Where did learning design come from? 

To appreciate the emergence and development of learning design, I share two personal experiences from my formative years as a scholar in the field: 

As a PhD student in 2000, one of the luminaries of educational technology at the time was visiting my research group. I’d been working with a conceptual framework he had proposed for designing multimedia learning environments to integrate technology using principles of constructivist learning. I asked him how we could engage teachers with design principles so that they could use them confidently in practice. His response was that design work was much too important and that we should be keeping teachers out of decisions made about design. His vision was of “pre-configured” learning environments that teachers couldn’t “stuff up”. 

A few years later, in 2003, I was at a workshop session on learning objects ahead of what was the leading international conference in educational technology at the time. A robust debate had sprung up about SCORM compliance and interoperability. Some more technically-oriented colleagues in the room were arguing for the merits of standards that could track learner interactions and progress through a system for the purpose of automated feedback and sequencing. They were infuriated with educators in the room who were questioning the extent to which this would transform teaching and learning. One of the key figures at the time shouted out, “What more could you want?”.  

Looking back on these brief but memorable exchanges highlights the troubled relationship that has long existed between design and learning (and teaching). Adding digital technologies to the mix has sharpened those tensions, or at least made them more manifest, between “techies” and educators, for example. Integrating technology has always required more forethought and preparation than face-to-face teaching and has been a site for “innovation”. The effect has been to create both a greater need and more opportunity for design, the outcomes of which are then also made manifest in the digital resources created and tools configured. Whereas in-person teaching tends to be private and ephemeral, online teaching is visible and persistent. 

Both exchanges reveal an underlying narrative of control. In the first, it’s about maintaining the integrity of a conceptual model by ensuring faithful replication when applied to any context. There is no anticipation of the need for adaptation by the teacher, let alone a space for creativity. In the second, control is exercised over both teacher and learner by channelling them through pre-determined interactions. The role of the teacher is to “fill in the blanks” in templates provided for their use, with no appreciation of a teacher’s vital role in understanding and responding to the needs of students. Nothing is left to chance and no spontaneous variability is permitted. Design thought of in this way brings prescription and order. It fundamentally changes learning and teaching, and its possibilities, and is often promoted as a means to increase efficiency and reduce risk. 

Zooming out to consider the key influences on learning design in Australia today, there are two key threads that have become increasingly entwined. One is reflected in the examples above, emerging through the introduction and growing adoption of computer technologies in education. As consumer technology became more affordable and more reliable, it moved increasingly into educational settings. There are already many historical accounts of these developments, which I won’t recap here. Instead, I draw attention to the strong influence of educational technology research and development from the United States on Australia. Much of that work was imbued with the traditions of instructional design that had evolved systematic models and processes for the design of educational materials (e.g. Branch & Kopcha, 2014) which were then applied to designing (as it was then) computer-supported learning. Imported with that thinking were also the debates from the period around approaches to learning (i.e. instructivist vs constructivist) and the ways in which technology should be integrated (e.g. Dalgarno, 2001). By implication, the work of learning designers is to logically follow design models and apply conceptual frameworks to ensure a standardised learning experience. 

Another formative influence on learning design in the Australian context is a long history of distance education. The country’s large distances and distributed population led to the development of correspondence education (or external studies) across all education sectors. Distance education in Australia was underpinned by a belief expressed in national policy in making education available to all no matter where they were located (Stacey & Visser, 2005). In higher education, some institutions specialised in distance education, developing significant infrastructures to support “print-and-post” operations. As in open universities, this created workflows in which instructional designers worked with subject matter experts to develop learning materials. Over time, media, communication and computer technologies expanded the modes of teaching and learning available and these were adopted for distance education. I draw attention to this part of Australia’s history to highlight the existence of capability in educational design long before it became bound up with computers and digital technology.  

This short historical tour helps to make sense of learning design in Australia today. The histories of designing for technology integration and educational access have merged and even pre-COVID most, if not all, Australian universities already offered some options for studying fully online or blended learning combining face-to-face and online interaction. Since the pandemic, reliance on technology has exploded and capacity to learn and teach with technology has increased, albeit in an emergency form. It is in this context that I offer my understanding of what learning design work is for and who does it.   

Current conundrums for learning design in universities 

In thinking through what learning design could be in the future university, I’ve compiled a list of some current key questions about the place of learning design in universities. I’ve called these “conundrums” because they are difficult questions with multiple possible alternative approaches and no definitive answer. I’m not suggesting that there is any need for a consensus approach; indeed different institutions will need and pursue different configurations, depending on their specific characteristics, institutional cultures and decisions made by their leaders. Instead, I seek to highlight the following questions that each institution must grapple with according to their own circumstances, strategies and aspirations: 

What is the role of specialist learning designers? 

It is straightforward to assert that all universities need specialist learning design expertise, but less clear how best this can be achieved. There are usually two key responsibilities for specialist learning designers: to apply their design expertise to specific tasks or projects and to upskill others in learning design.  

Doing learning design work is a focussed activity, usually done as part of a team, deploying a designer’s particular skillset. Learning designers doing this work often double as project managers, coordinating the efforts of various team members and managing timelines for completing the work. By its nature, this work is contained by a particular scope and so, is episodic – a course or module needs to be designed or redesigned and then made available for teaching and learning. Upskilling others in learning design is a broader activity, in that it usually takes in a wider group of people and is ongoing. It can take a variety of forms – for example, responding to ad hoc queries from teaching staff or through various organised forms of professional development and training programs. Upskilling can, of course, also take place within learning design projects and is often a powerful form of professional “learning by doing”. 

Understanding what a learning designer does within an institution is critical to many other decisions about, for example, the skills and qualifications they should have (in pedagogy and technology), whether they should be located in centralised units or distributed across the university, how work is distributed across groups and to individuals, and how learning designers can be deployed to support “business as usual”, strategic initiatives and/or emergent innovation. From an institutional management perspective, learning designers are a limited resource and are often relatively expensive to secure in a competitive recruitment environment. This makes their optimal deployment critical to successful operations. 

None of these decisions is purely operational, though – all have important implications for the professional identities of those learning designers. These implications include how learning designers make sense of their work within their institutional context, which shapes and is shaped by how they are seen and treated by others. In Australia, some learning design specialists are employed as academics and others as professional staff, sometimes without much apparent difference in duties. This points to a distinction between learning designer as a researcher/scholar and as a practitioner/professional and extends to how they view themselves within a wider professional community of higher education or, more likely, communities within and beyond higher education. Naturally, this has implications for how learning design specialists relate to the broader field and wider practice. For an individual, it more fundamentally comes down to why they are motivated to do this work – at the heart of which is generally the desire to support student learning. A commitment to this core value will drive individuals to pursue their career and vocation in particular ways that lead them to learning design work. And these ways will inevitably raise tensions with the discourse of contemporary higher education that stem from shifts towards massification, commodification and vocationalisation (Tight, 2019). 

In addition, with the increased demand for online education and training for private education providers and in other sectors, there is an increase in universities hiring learning design specialists as external consultants as freelancers on contract to specific projects or outsourcing learning design work in collaborations with third-party commercial providers (Wheelahan & Moodie, 2021). This adds new uncertainties about what learning designers based inside universities might do, be and become.  

From this key and complex question about the role of learning design specialists flows a series of other conundrums, for which answers depend on institutional circumstances. These are questions that existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, though they perhaps have a new edge to them in the post-COVID world. 

What is the nature of learning design practice? 

The notion of “practices” is a helpful one when it comes to conceptualising and investigating the nature of learning design work and who learning designers are. Within the many theorisations of practice is a focus on what people do and the meanings that shape what they do. Practices are both specific within settings, with aspects that extend beyond those settings in space and place, and that persist and evolve over time. Practices are enabled and constrained by resources, traditions, knowledge, values and more. Learning design within universities exists as a form of practice with unifying features that are shared by scholarly and practitioner communities (e.g. within disciplines, professional organisations and education sectors), and specific ways of working and being within the local setting. That variation may speak to the need for differentiation (one size does not fit all), but it may also suggest that as a field of endeavour there is much more learning design needs to know about itself. As I’ve noted above, what learning designers do is shaped by histories of instructional design and different paradigms of educational design, but within the notion of practice is also evolution and change. So, what might be open to change in learning design practice? For example, could different working relationships with academics/teachers and students bring about new forms of collaboration? Could new ways of knowledge sharing from cultures traditionally marginalised foster new working arrangements and different forms of design (and design outcomes)? What might be a more desirable state and how could it be achieved? These are, again, open questions. 

How can learning design capacity be built in the teaching workforce? 

Several authors in the field have advanced strong arguments of conceptualising teaching as design (e.g. Laurillard, 2012). Colleagues and I have also argued that because teaching staff are directly engaged at the “coalface” of student learning and much larger in proportion and reach than specialist designers within an institution, building their capacity in design is a key (if not the key) to sustainable and scalable improvement (Bennett et al., 2018). This is not to suggest that teachers need to become learning design specialists. Teachers already do design work as part of their own practice, and what they need must engage with and develop what they already do. The question is how to build the learning design capacity of “teachers as designers” as a complement to the work of learning design specialists. And then, how these activities can work together and in parallel to support student learning. 

What is the role of research and evidence in learning design? 

If we accept that learning design is a scholarly field as well as a practical endeavour, there are critical questions about the ways we seek and use evidence about learning design. Specifically, how we use empirical evidence to advance theory, drive further empirical work and speak reciprocally to practice (i.e. to inform and be informed by). This gamut encompasses how findings are shared and translated and for whom. As I argue above, we need to know more about learning design practice; research focused on how it is done and by whom is therefore an ongoing concern in terms of understanding the current state and considering what could be different. We also must build knowledge about the indirect relationship between learning design and student learning outcomes. This is complex work because it seeks to trace, building on Trigwell et al. (1999), the chain of relations between learning design, teaching and learning .  

Potential research questions include:

Further questions stem from who conducts the research and engages with it, who decides how it is used and how vested and commercial interests can be surfaced and managed. 

How will the contemporary university environment shape learning design? 

I’ve given this question a deliberately broad scope in order to capture the many influences on universities that have been well expounded elsewhere (e.g. Goodyear, 2015; Tight, 2019). All institutions are subject to evolving societal expectations and political aspirations that drive policy with real effect. There are regulatory requirements, both in the sector and specific disciplines and the internal policies created within universities. Within the policies, the formal procedures they give rise to and the funding allocations made, are both strategic aspirations and operational requirements. Digitalisation, technology-enhanced learning, digital competence and the like are increasingly being formalised and operationalised. Depending on how they are positioned and viewed in an organisation, learning designers could contribute in multiple ways. For example, they might drive a top-down centralised agenda, engage with emergent “grassroots” initiatives by academics, form an innovative “task force” on specific “high margin” projects, create a knowledge base of the latest evidence to translate into practice, pursue a broad professional development programme to build digital competence, and more. With this comes implications for what learning design is and could be in a particular university, and much of this is in the hands of senior leadership teams and the choices they make. This raises questions about what knowledge bases they are drawing on and who is influencing their decisions about learning design. 

This brief tour around the key conundrums I have identified is not exhaustive and each of these interconnected areas offers scope for expansion in their own right. I point to them to indicate where attention might be directed in coming to grips with learning design as it is now and what could be possible in the future. The responses have the potential to shape wider views within the sector of what learning design is and how it should be done. While all of these were present and important before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely they will take on a different character in the post-COVID university.  

Possible futures for learning design 

For a sector long regarded as inherently resistant to change, the adaptability demonstrated by higher education in response to COVID-19 is something to celebrate. However, the pandemic robbed us of the opportunity to plan, monitor and adapt. This has left us with new ways of work that are well suited to coping in the crisis phase of a response, such as emergency remote teaching, but that are neither sustainable nor desirable in the future. The challenge therefore remains for the university sector, and for its institutions and individuals, to decide what is next.   

Success will depend on multiple factors, but key amongst them will be the capacity to offer a learning environment that is designed to meet student needs with high quality and flexibility for cohorts with diverse expectations and preferences. This will require investment in the people fundamental to enabling that – a workforce and the supportive working environment that will enable learning design to flourish and do what it can do best. In considering possible futures of learning design, it may be useful to think through possible scenarios for universities in the post-COVID world.  

Scenario 1: Learning design in the “campus-based” university 

Another scenario post-COVID is for a university to adopt a strong commitment to campus-based learning, be that a re-commitment to the pre-COVID “old normal” or a repositioning to overtly prioritise in-person learning. A decision to pursue this scenario can be understood as a reaction to deprivations experienced due to public health restrictions and the widespread evidence of dissatisfaction with remote learning amongst a large proportion of the student population. A commitment to face-to-face learning within the context of a campus-based experience would be a means of differentiating an institution by downplaying technology or harnessing it in a way the privileges in-person interaction. This could also be seen as a way to compete with increasing offerings by non-traditional providers in the higher education market. In this scenario, the role of learning design could become less valued and less visible, particularly if there is a belief that there is sufficient existing knowledge and expertise within the teaching workforce to “get by” with older, more familiar modes of teaching. Alternatively, an institution might choose to invest as highly, if not more, by harnessing learning design to achieve the goal of a superior on-campus student experience.  

Scenario 2: Learning design in the “digital” university 

Yet another alternative, and one that stands in contrast to the “on campus” institution, is the ever more “digital” university. This represents the “old normal” for many Australian universities which had already embraced a digital future and begun this shift is real terms. Moving further in this direction would build from the changes wrought by the pandemic, in which teaching staff dramatically upskilled and universities invested heavily in new or expanded infrastructure to support emergency remote teaching. There has already been much speculation about what the “new normal” might be for online teaching and learning as one of the legacies of the pandemic. A high level of engagement with learning design could bridge the gap between what was developed in the crisis phase and what previous experience and research has shown to constitute high quality online learning. In this scenario, learning design could help to create the best forms of blended or hybrid approaches, adapted to local contexts, to retain levels of flexibility while improving accessibility and ensuring quality. The “digital” university is positioned within increasing “digitalisation” across the sector (and wider society) and the engagement of learning design would draw on pedagogical and organisational dimensions that are at risk of being overlooked in educational settings (Pettersson, 2021). This suggests that learning design could equally be applied in more reductive ways that would result in superficial change rather than improvement and transformation. 

Scenario 3: Learning design in the “design” university 

Goodyear (2015) proposed the notion of an institution “powered” by design across all its activities as a response to the drivers and shifts in contemporary higher education. His vision involves: 

…much more than employing greater numbers of better-trained educational designers, useful though this should be. It means making universities more design-savvy; helping everyone in the institution participate in knowledgeable, design-led change. (Goodyear, 2015, p. 37)  

In such a scenario, learning design would be acknowledged as a critical and highly visible strategic focus. Achieving this vision would require significant shifts in culture across all aspects of a university’s operations to be more dynamic and adaptive, with attendant transformation of policies and practices. The rise to prominence of design thinking in recent years may have created a climate in which this somewhat utopian idea may be more readily understood and better received, but the size of the investment needed in a resource-constrained environment makes this possible future seem more distant than ever. In this scenario, learning design is part of the fabric, being integrated and connected within the design-savvy institution, working closely with colleagues across a range of teaching and learning related activities.  

Scenario 4: Learning design in the “diversified” university 

A final scenario I’ll put forward for the purposes of this chapter is that of the “diversified” university, which takes a portfolio approach to developing a set of carefully curated activities within the institution. A diversified institution would seek to identify, invest in and build particular strengths. This could be, for example, in particular disciplinary or professional domains or by identifying niche initiatives crafted within particular areas of activity. This would open the possibility for learning design efforts to target offerings selectively designed for on-campus teaching, work-integrated clinical programmes, online fully flexible postgraduate courses or open access resources. In this scenario, learning design would be a major advantage in creating a portfolio which would allow an institution to remain comprehensive in scope, but with strategic offerings and activities differentiated for specific purposes. Institutions which have already embarked on activities across these different modes could be well placed to shift to this approach. 

These four scenarios are somewhat artificial, but are necessarily so in order to draw out some of the different possible future institutions within which learning design could be located. The extent to which each scenario is more or less likely is open to debate, but their purpose here is as provocations to stimulate our thinking about what might be possible, and indeed preferable. There is no doubt that the pandemic has disrupted wherever we thought our lives were going; with that comes the opportunity for change if we choose to grasp it. It remains to be seen, however, whether the future is an evolution or transformation. 


In concluding this chapter, I return to the two personal experiences I’ve given and the two threads of history I’ve described in the Australian learning design context to consider what is absent or made marginal, and to what practical effect. I detect at least four gaps or minimisations in the dominant view of learning design that I have described.  

Firstly, the role teachers play in learning design through the routine planning, preparing, presenting and reviewing that is fundamental to teaching is poorly recognised. Teachers’ contributions to designing for learning is often minimised or actively disrespected. This is a lost opportunity for understanding how teachers play a complementary role to specialist learning designers, and sobuild design capacity within a university.  

Students are also excluded from an active role in learning design amid increasing discussion of, if not yet action towards, the possibilities of co-design with students. Co-design with students can only be achieved if learning design work can be opened up to learner engagement in very new ways, and much more routinely. With both teachers and learners as active partners in learning design, design would no longer be done to them, but done in collaboration with and possibly even led by them.  

Further, a narrative of learning design practice as bringing order ironically fails to fully account for the work of learning designers themselves. Learning design is, and can be, much more than the application of systematic models and processes that seek to structure work according to a series of clearly prescribed steps and specifications. A simplistic view of learning design fails to acknowledge the subjectivities, knowledges, backgrounds and assumptions brought by designers to their work. Other paradigms that emphasise the creative and relational aspects of learning design work have always existed, even if not well recognised in the dominant paradigm (Visscher-Voerman et al., 1999). 

Finally, I suggest that within the dominant discourse of the field of learning design there are still strong notions of technological advancement and innovation as imperatives, which belie the nature of learning and design as complex, messy and very human endeavours (Castañeda & Selwyn, 2018). As always, we need to encourage sceptical and critical voices that come from inside the field but are also by definition marginalised in order to challenge the accepted views of learning design.   

As noted earlier, the dominant view of learning design in Australia has been strongly shaped by the traditions of instructional design and educational technology originating from the United States. With that comes inherent assumptions, agendas, biases and preferences, both explicit and unconscious. The status quo is reinforced by our systems of academic knowledge production and attitudes to the value of knowledge produced outside the English-speaking Global North. What would it require for learning design to open up and allow other voices in? There have already been efforts to engage those from other places and cultures in conversations about design approaches and perspectives (e.g. Lin & Spector, 2017; Mittelmeier et al., 2018; Pallitt, 2018). Dialogues are important and useful so that we can learn to listen to and appreciate others’ perspectives. This is often hard work, as we strive to reduce talking at cross purposes and tangentially to one another as we also attempt to interrogate our own subjectivities. The goal is not therefore to harmonise, homogenise or align. It is to share and challenge, to open up to possibility, while respecting distinctive and varied approaches to learning design. This work goes further than contextualising a well-established model or approach from one setting to another. It is reshaping that model or approach to generate something significantly different, rather than a variation on a theme. In so doing, we can continually remake the intellectual field.  

The goal of learning design, like all design endeavours, is to create something usable. Practically, we can all learn from traditions and cultures of learning and teaching from elsewhere around the globe that are currently not well represented in learning design knowledge and practice. Learning designers used to designing for well-resourced environments can learn from those accustomed to constraints and inequalities (Boer & Asino, 2022). Further research into the influence of cultural background on learning can be applied as a basis for flexible, culturally adaptive learning design (Rizvi et al., 2022b). Further, we can do justice to those peoples historically made to conform through colonisation and oppression. Expanding the scope of what learning design is can inform the kinds of responses provoked by engaging with the conundrums and scenarios I have outlined above. Design, by its very nature, is generative and offers us tools to achieve this, should we decide to use them. 

Learning design is a contested space and the difficult period post-COVID makes it even more so. However, the uncertainty also brings opportunity for engaging with conundrums and grappling with what it means to make learning design more inclusive by bringing in marginal voices and embracing diversity; in so doing, making learning and education more inclusive. As Bayne and Gallagher (2021) suggest, is now time to do more to own our own future and resist the vested interests and discourse of imperatives? In doing so, we could be more active in shaping our own destinies as individuals, institutions and as a field. As a field, a practice and a sector, we have choices about how we might reconceptualise learning design and bring it to the centre of what we do to help equip the post-COVID university to address the very real challenges it faces. Hard-won lessons from the pandemic period can be embedded within a culture of learning design that provides a foundation for the future. 


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Sue Bennett

University of Wollongong

Over the past 30 years, Sue Bennett has worked as a writer, educational designer, higher education teacher and university academic. Her work investigates how people engage with technology in their everyday lives and in educational settings. Her aim is to develop a more holistic understanding of people's technology practices to inform research, practice and policy. She has been researching design thinking and learning design since 1999. She is currently a professor of education at the University of Wollongong.

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