Learning Design and Learning Architecture

One of the challenging things that I sometimes get to explain is my relationship with Sea Salt Learning. In and of itself, it is pretty straightforward. However, what is challenging is that it doesn’t really resemble anyone’s understanding of the construct we all know as a ‘job’.

The easy answer is that: that’s because it’s not a job. I’m not an employee. I don’t work for anyone but my clients, and as such, I hold the work I do to a high standard.

I’m a consultant with a consulting firm. But really, I think of it as a collective. A group of people doing together what they could not do alone. As a highly collaborative, creative minded soul who gets energy and motiation from my conversations with others, this is a big and necessary part of my work.

This brings me to the topic for today. What is my work? As part of a start up, that is a constantly evolving thing, but I am beginning to understand who I am in relation to others, what type of work I am best at and where I need additional coaching. On my business card, as a Sea Salt Learning representative, it says Social Learning Designer. I don’t find that this encompasses quite what I do however. Yes, I have an understanding of Julian’s ideas on scaffolded social learning and can talk about them, even design to them if that is what is on order. However, I find myself, as I gain opportunity to work on different types of projects, coming back to my “roots”, my first loves: transformative learning and informal learning.

It’s not all that surprising that I am drawn by these ideas, as a self directed person, who has spent some time doing self work, I gravitate to the question of change, spaces that change occurs in, and how to build opportunities for learning and change. This sentence, this idea is really what informed my approach as a teacher, as an instructional designer, and now, as as learning architect.

I am claiming that title. Learning design happens within the architecture. However, we must first think about the architecture, the bare framework that will host learning and change. What technologies would work best? What methodologies should we adopt, that best meet our goals and objectives? A good design will work within the greater architecture, taking into account the motives, and tools available. Within an architecture, there will be many designs, many ways of learning, and different topics, that all serve this overarching architecture. At an organizational level, this boggles my mind. I can start a bit smaller though and make sure my ideas are scalable.

My interpretation of those two loaded terms might be far off. However, they help me express how I design. Here are three ideas that guide me when I design learning opportunities:

  • we do our most memorable and effective learning from our peers
  • a behavioural change will not happen without a mindset or perspective change
  • change cannot be taught, it must be fostered (Mezirow).

Given these three ideas, I necessarily take the long view when thinking about design. What is the end goal? What is the perspective change that we are trying to bring about? And work backwards from there (a la positive psychology).

I won’t tell people exactly what they will learn, defined by objectives. It is delicate to tell people that the workshop they are attending is designed to change them. That is a sure way to put people’s backs up! However, it is fair to talk about the topics that we will cover.

These are some initial thoughts about learning architecture, design and how I like to operate. I look forward to your questions and comments (I find these help me to challenge and advance my thinking).

If you know of any additional resources I should be aware of regarding any of the ideas mentioned, please do write them as a comment!

2 Comments on “Learning Design and Learning Architecture

  1. I love the idea that we need to take a step back as learning designers and while we can engage people to participate in a transformative process, ultimately they own the direction and pace of change – nicely written Valerie


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