Purposeful Learning FrameworkTM – Why People are at the Center of Everything We Do

Published by Carrie O'Donnell
on Jan 15, 2021

I’m often asked why our company is so good at collaborating with  faculty. The first time I heard this question, I didn’t realize clients found this unique to O’Donnell Learn. We’ve always been great partners  because people are at the heart of everything we do. In fact, our entire design philosophy – Purposeful Learning DesignTM – is anchored around people. 

It starts with this truth: learning is for people. As such, learning design should be grounded in empathy and it should promote success for both learners and faculty. Purposeful Learning Design is the philosophy we embrace to ensure we never lose sight of this truth. It is comprised of six key considerations.

People-Centricity: As designers and learners, we fully embrace the needs of everyone involved. Our goal is to humanize the learning experience and make it welcoming and belonging for all. For example, we begin with empathy for the learner to understand how key elements of the learning might affect learner success. When we collaborate with faculty we focus on how to bring their expertise alive in an engaging and effective way.

Evidence-Based Best Practices: Our practice is guided and informed by a large body of research in both learning practices and learning science. Our process validates these best practices, because we encourage built-in feedback loops to help faculty evolve the experience by listening to their students.

Accessibility & Inclusivity: It’s impossible to create great learning experiences without considering the needs of all learners. Ensuring equity, parity and access for all learners means creating flexible learning experiences that provide alternative pathways of access and choices for how to engage and learn.

Collaboration & Engagement: In learning and design, people achieve more together. We live this every day. Our entire company is virtual. One of our greatest strengths is our practice of collaboration, which fosters each other’s strengths. The same is true for faculty-to-designer, peer-to-peer and faculty-to-student. We all thrive better together.

Backward Design: If learner success is the goal of the learning experience, then you need to define success by creating clear, measurable outcomes. Once you know where you want your learners to land, designing the path for getting there is clear. What’s really beautiful about backward design is that it focuses us on mastery and giving learners the path(s) to achieve success.

Active Learning: People learn by doing. There’s only so much that can be learned without the action of applying new knowledge and experiencing the results. Without the “doing”, there’s no success or failure, no understanding what works, what doesn’t and why. And no opportunity to improve and grow.

When I launched O’Donnell Learn 30 years ago, it was because I believed technology could change the way people learn. I wanted to be part of that. Helping evolve and improve learning, helping advance learner success. And while where we started is different than where we are today, people have always been – and always will be – at the heart of what’s important to making that happen.

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