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Christine McGlade

Nowhere else do we find a collision of the social and the technical, and a complex interplay of tensions than in the process of designing digital learning experiences: teaching and learning online. Online learning is not a new idea: from the MOOCs of the 2000s to Sal Khan’s innovation to “shift the variable” away from the learning to time to learn. (Khan, 2015) We have long had an inkling that online learning could democratise education. But now, as we scramble to play catch up out of necessity, we run the risk of making missteps and errors.

Designing for online learning

This workshop asks the question:

How might we better facilitate digital communities of practice for transformative learning, in a co-creation paradigm that puts learners at the centre of the experience, one in which they are offered multiple opportunities to explore across technologies and media platforms that keep them personally motivated and experiencing moments of additive comprehension?

In 2019 (pre-pandemic), I was tasked to develop online-only courses for the OCAD University School of Continuing Studies. I found that most of the how-to guides on online learning were very tactical. Online learning was presented as a complicated problem that might be solved as any engineering challenge might, with a recipe. I have found designing for learning in the online environment to be a complex and even chaotic problem (Lipmanowicz, 2013) that arises from complex adaptive systems involving human relationships in the context of networked technology.

In this relatively new sociotechnical space, we borrowed from user experience design and behavioural economics to nudge our learners to stay on track. This becomes problematic considering the recent critiques of our social media platforms’ dark patterns and habit-forming interaction design. (Schwab, 2018) This is also problematic when considering that all our contemporary digital communities may only perpetuate institutional ways of knowing.

When “digital is a tool of surveillance, the monetisation of education, the exacerbation of economic difference, and the isolation of the individual.” – Ryan Rice, OCADU (Rice, 2021)

This is not to say that networked technology doesn’t hold enormous promise to facilitate learning and democracy, just that we need to fundamentally rethink our design practices when the goal is transformative learning.

Codesigning a course design canvas

My ongoing work in adult education, especially at OCADU, has brought up multiple issues in the decolonisation of design and the decentering of the individual’s experience favouring a technology-facilitated and learner (or user) driven experience. Given the complexity of course design: considerations around Universal Design for Learning, technology use, and especially the myriad ways that students might engage with and learn from the material, I have been thinking about combining the concept of a service design blueprint with the process of backwards design to help me (and other educators) design their online courses. I have developed an online learning canvas and card set to design courseware and wish to further develop this work at RSD10.

Workshop format

90 minutes | maximum of 20 participants | cards and canvas provided

Workshop Agenda

Using a service design blueprint as an inspiration and previous research on a similar game-like methodology that I called the Transmedia Storytelling Canvas, I have drafted a prototype of a course design canvas, which is included with this submission. See Background.

I would like to try it out, refine it, and workshop it with instructors and students to understand if:

  • There is a need or desire for such a tool
  • How we might improve this tool to make it more readily usable by both educators AND students
  • How we might refine the card set with its trigger questions that guide an educator and students through course design using this type of tool

We will use the learning design canvas and a card set currently in development to prompt ideation and reflection on pedagogical outcomes and tactics for media creation, activities, and curation of sources of knowledge, with the learner at the centre of this experience.

Transmedia Storytelling Canvas

Transmedia Storytelling Canvas

Online Course Design Canvas

Course Design Canvas


Transmedia Storytelling Canvas/Card Set

In 2016/2017, I was invited to deliver a series of workshops on Transmedia storytelling in Humber College’s Film program. My effort with these workshops 5 was to walk the students through an ideation process that would move their concept of audience from passive watchers of their work to the centre of a media experience in which audiences would co-create the narrative with the filmmaker. At this time, I developed a “Transmedia Canvas” and card set, a Transmedia storytelling game of sorts, to structure the students’ ideation and help them to think about their filmmaking in a new way.

This translates very well to a tool to assist post-secondary teachers AND learners to co-author a learning experience distributed well beyond the physical classroom and beyond the ‘sage on the stage’ model of education. So I began to explore how ideas like Transmedia Learning, service design, and curriculum design might be combined into a similar tool for educators, a canvas and card set, to help them envision courseware that would put learners at the centre of the experience and serve as a codesign tool.

Course Design Canvas

This work is to be refined prior to and subsequent to the workshop. The card set, similar to the card set pictured above, would prompt the various boxes on the canvas.


Khan, Sal (2015, March 12). Closing Session. South by Southwest Edu, Austin TX.

Lipmanowicz, H.,& McCandless, K. (2013). The surprising power of liberating structures: 2 Simple rules to unleash a culture of innovation. Seattle, WA: Liberating Structures Press p. 279

Schwab, K. (2018, September 21). The future of humanity depends on design ethics, says 3 Tim Wu. Retrieved from design-ethics-says- tim-wu

Ryan Rice, OCADU made this comment during a presentation by Sean Michael Morris: AS 4 WE STEP FORWARD, WE MUST STAND STILL: CRITICAL DIGITAL PEDAGOGY AND THE PRAXIS OF TAKING TIME, Sean Michael Morris, 2021. This comment by Rice encapsulates the thread from my Masters’ thesis that this new research builds upon.

Jenkins, H. (2010). Transmedia storytelling and entertainment: An annotated syllabus. Continuum, 24(6), 943-958.




Citation Data

Author(s): Christine Mcglade
Title: Codesigning Online Learning
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 10 September 2021
Last update:
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