Open learning designers on the margins

Roberts, Verena; Havemann, Leo and DeWaard, Helen (2023). Open learning designers on the margins. In: Jaffer, Tasneem; Govender, Shanali and Czerniewicz, Laura eds. Learning Design Voices. Cape Town: University of Cape Town, pp. 49–64.



Prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, learning designers and adjacent professionals worked closely with educators to develop technologically supported and enhanced learning opportunities – often particularly within online education spaces, though increasingly also in blended learning contexts. In the rush of pandemic mitigation, educational equity fault lines were exposed and exacerbated, as classroom-based teaching was rapidly redeployed into online and digital spaces. The authors offer this chapter as a reflection of their work as learning designers, but also as practitioners of open education, as part of a necessary collective effort to do better, through the open sharing of strategies, discoveries, questions and uncertainties. Here we propose the application of the concept of third space to illuminate the position of learning designers in higher education, especially as they attempt to navigate and negotiate a practice of open(ing) learning design that is intentional, equitable and reflective. Third space is explored as both a site of identity-building for learning designers and as a challenging, liminal, boundary-spanning location for learning design practice. We share some principles of open learning design and learner readiness. We share a contextual application for learning that prioritises students in the learning equation. As learning designers, we suggest that, to engage and inspire learning, our practice must be grounded on ethical considerations for human care, equity, criticality and openness.

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