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Athabasca University


A Community of Practice

The Community of Learning Design (CLD) came into being April 1, 2016, when the former Centre for Learning Design and Development (CLDD) was absorbed into the individual faculties.  Our group currently consists of several learning designers who will continue to meet on a regular basis to exchange ideas and information about current activities and provide educational development opportunities to Athabasca University faculty and staff. We invite others involved in the course design and production process to join the community.

Guiding Principles

 The group acknowledges the importance of

  • maximizing AU resources through communication and cooperation among all AU course design stakeholders
  • collaboration in designing a flexible, but consistent experience for AU learners
  • providing a learning environment that follows the principles of universal design for learning (UDL) to the greatest extent possible
  • designing authentic learning experiences and making use of open educational resources (OER) to educate producers as well as consumers of knowledge
  • learning from one another and applying what we learn to AU course design in a robust and collegial manner

Course Design Model

Course model image

Select the thumbnail image to view an animation of the learning design process.

Learning Design versus Instructional Design

While there is a lot of overlap, and most learning designers have had some instructional design training, differences are emerging. Both are concerned with design, i.e., conscious planning and execution of an educational objective.  Broadly speaking, however, learning designers are the architects of education, and instructional designers are the engineers, with LDs striving to design a learning environment and IDs working closer to discrete learning experiences. Learning designers want to see the learning environment from the learner's perspective—their need for self-regulation, awareness of their own learning processes (meta cognition), and their motivation to learn. LDs design to support information literacy, critical thinking, and other necessary capabilties in learners.

Learning designers typically focus on close collaboration with content experts, and are often experts in their own right, with research and publishing credits on their CV.  They concern themselves mainly with the teaching–learning process. Their job is to apply appropriate learning theory to the design of learning materials and learning events to ensure that learning is maximized in a particular environment

Instructional designers aim to optimize the appeal, effectiveness,and efficiency of a learning experience. They are likely to focus on a product that can be deployed in the designed environment.

If you want to add to these definitions and perhaps debate the proposed distinctions, you can do so in the Community of Learning Design group on the Athabasca Landing.


Updated September 09 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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