Design For People, Now. – O'Donnell Learn

Design For People, Now.

Published by Carrie O'Donnell
on Apr 16, 2020

“Design is for people, not content”. These wise words were sent to me in a text message by my friend and collaborator, Gerry Hanley of California State University, Long Beach and Executive Director of Skills Common and MERLOT.

This thinking sparked a conversation between Gerry and I that we are eager to extend to a larger group of faculty and leaders in higher education. To get the ball rolling, we are co-facilitating a discussion at OLC Ideate next week.

Gerry’s comment also got me thinking about my experiences in 30 years as a learning designer, and how this principle is baked into everything we do at O’Donnell Learn. Clearly, learning design must be centered on the learner. Over and over, I have seen that the most successful learning designs focus on mastery, not failure, with student success as the primary objective. And, our team is careful to consider the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that can either motivate success or inhibit it.

I have also been thinking about the increased challenges placed on learning design post-COVID-19. We are already seeing an increased demand to upskill displaced workers, and there will be pressure on higher ed institutions to help retool our workforce for the new normal. This presents a new urgency towards learner-centric design. We designers, and the faculty we support, need to consider intrinsic factors like stress, anxiety, grief and fear that may be inhibiting student success.

Learning design also must be centered on the instructor. Many faculty members are wary of “training” rather than educating. Others are worried that virtual education is less effective than the classroom variety. History shows that returning adult workers have constraints–often juggling work, family and school–that make online or blended learning a better option. Yet, few college instructors have been trained to design learning for people. In the past, most faculty members have designed learning based on their content expertise. I am thrilled to extend this dialogue and engage in conversation with partners, colleagues, and friends working hard to figure out how we educate displaced workers and design learning experiences in our new normal.


The WOW Factor: Creating Faculty Development That Sparks Interest and Envy

Published By Carrie O'Donnell
on Jan 19, 2021

Imagine our surprise last summer when we reached out to 475 faculty and learned the online courses for nearly half were simply mirrors of their face-to-face instruction. In fact, only 22% were designing their courses differently for online. With all of the faculty development around online learning being offered, why weren’t more faculty designing courses specifically for this type of instruction? As it turns out, faculty weren’t engaging with development options at a level you might expect given COVID-19 and the rapid shift to online learning. Something we’d also learned in surveys and interviews with170 provosts and academic leaders a year earlier. The solution? The WOW Factor.

Purposeful Learning DesignTM – 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.

2020 Reflective: Breathe Deep and Stay Agile

Published By Joana Jebsen
on Dec 22, 2020

While end-of-year survey results are still to come for how enrolled students are evaluating their 2020 college experience, I queried two of our staff, both students, about their overall experience and considered how these compared to what I was seeing with O’Donnell Learn clients. Kellie, our graphic design intern, just completed her Associates Degree in Graphic design. Prior to 2020, all of her courses met on campus. Cathryn, a Learning Design Associate is currently enrolled in an online Master of Education program in eLearning and Instructional Design. As this program was conceived as online delivery, it serves as a benchmark to compare against courses that were forced by COVID to switch delivery modes.