Designing Technologies for Learning

Designing Technologies for Learning

Additional guidance on assessment


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The assessment for this unit relates to the design idea for a learning technology that you develop during the sessions. The aims of this unit are to learn and reflect upon the processes of designing a piece of educational technology and the different aspects such a process involves. This document provides information about important dates related to assessment and additional guidance on the portfolio and the essay.


Summative assessment for this unit consists of two parts. Both parts relate to the process of designing a technology to support learning, which will be developed and supported throughout the unit sessions. We will also provide formative assessment, including feedback and discussions in class (from peers and tutors), as well as written feedback on portfolios during the term and group tutorials at the end of term.


Important assessment dates:



Submission date for portfolio: Wednesday March 25 at 12 noon

Submission date for essay: Monday, April 20 at 12 noon


Formative feedback on portfolios:

Unit tutors will comment on portfolios during class and will also review them and give written feedback once during the unit – dates for this are as follows:

  • Hard copy portfolios: hand in during class Wednesday, 4 March (returned in class by Wednesday, 11March);
  • Digital portfolios: add link to Blackboard by Monday, 2 March;
  • Feedback to all students by Wednesday, 11 March


The following is additional guidance on theportfolio and essay parts of the assignment.


Assessment Part 1: Portfolio of the design process

(25% of the overall mark – 1,000 word equivalent)


As part of the unit, each student will create and maintain a portfolio of their design idea and process. This portfolio will record and describe the development of the design idea and critically reflect on the design activities and ideas that are developed both in and outside of class. The portfolio can be in a form or medium of the students’ choosing. A scrapbook or an e-portfolio are equally acceptable and students are encouraged to be creative in their portfolio development, as long as they systematically record the ideas and decision-making processes that contribute to the developing design idea. Tutors will provide formative feedback on the portfolios at least once during the term. The use of the portfolio supports the iterative, reflective nature of the design process and the various factors that contribute to it. The in-depth documentation and recording of this design process will also help in the completion of the second part of the assessment. (ILO 1, 2, 3)


Guidance on creating a portfolio for assessment:

Design processes are usually iterative and reflective. This unit is also intended to be a reflective and experiential unit, so it is essential that your participation in the unit involves recognising,reflecting on and recording the development of your design idea and your own understanding of design processes. The portfolio you create is intended to be a collection and reflection of both the development of your design idea and your understanding of design processes. The purpose of the portfolio is for students to record and display their knowledge, understanding and experience of their own technology design process.


Portfolio assessment:

As with all assessments, the portfolios will be marked according to the marking criteria found in the MSc handbook.  However, additional guidance may also be helpful for this assessment format. In this spirit, we list below the elements that we would expect portfolios to include:


  1. Documentation and recording of the process you have gone through to develop your design idea. This should include the activities you have carried out; any resources, literature or concepts you have engaged with; and ideas you have explored.
  2. Demonstration of how the design process experience has informed:
  • your thinking about design processes
  • the development of your design idea
  • your understanding of designing technologies for learning
  1. A critical reflection on the activities, resources and stages of developing your design idea, as described above. This could include: how your initial ideas and understanding have changed, anything you have found challenging or inspiring, what you felt was useful or not useful about the various activities and ideas you engaged in, suggestions for how you might do things differently.


Further guidance on expectations for portfolio format and content is below.


Format and contents of the portfolio:

The portfolio can be in a form or medium of your choosing, though using a format that is easily accessible for tutors and others to see is important. The portfolio should contain a clearly organised sample of your work across the unit, demonstrating the learning and progress you make across the term on your own design. This might include writing, sketches, summaries of other research, photographs or other artifacts related to your design idea and the design process. Unit tutors will provide on-going guidance around portfolio content during classes and individual formative feedback on the portfolios at least once during the term.


The portfolio counts for 25% of the final mark, which in the MSc programme is the equivalent of 1,000 words. This does not mean that the portfolio is limited to that word count though, as the content of the portfolios will vary and may include images, sketches and media as well as different kinds of written work. Given the diversity of types of portfolio submissions and the creative nature of compiling portfolios, it is difficult to provideguidance on the exact length a portfolio should be, but we would ask that you keep it to a maximum of 10 pages or slides. The portfolio that you develop over the term may be longer than this, but the one you submit should be a version that clearly meets the criteria and contains the elements listed below.


The final version should contain detailed content and/or critical reflection related to the elements listed below. These aspects of design are considered within the unit sessions, so the portfolio should also reflect the design work you do in class. (Some students have organised portfolios to correspond to weekly session topics):


  • Show how the design idea was initially developed and how it addresses an identified problem
  • Show how the design process considers and involves users
  • Show what design activities or methods you would use and how they would contribute to or influence the development of the technology – such as market research, workshops with users, observation
  • Show examples or scenarios of your learning technology in use
  • Show the learning objectives/learning brief of the technology and how it was developed
  • Show a mock up or prototype of the design idea
  • Show how relevant literature related to the content of your design idea or the design process would influence design decisions


Within each of these elements, we would expect to see evidence of reflection on your experience of designing the technology as well as how your understanding of design processes and influencing factors is changing and developing. You could show this reflection in different ways – with pictures, use of different colours, or annotations. Reflection must be part of the portfolio. A successful portfolio will be more than just a collection of photos and activities but will also include clearly articulated descriptions on your own learning and development along the way.


Assessment Part 2: Written essay (75% – Word limit: 3,000)


This piece of written work should critically reflect on the design process of a learning technology. The essay will both analyse design-related activities conducted during the unit and draw on concepts from theoretical and academic literature relevant to the design process. The essay is not a report on the actual technology that students design but is instead focused on an understanding of the design process. As such, the content of the paper should demonstrate a critical analysis of design processes and the multiple factors that may influence your design idea. Students’ demonstration of understanding this design process should draw upon:


  • Relevant literature and current thinking around the context and learning that the technology design supports
  • Relevant literature around design processes and considerations, such as user-centred/human-centred approaches, HCI, and cognitive theories
  • Reflections arising from a number of practical workshops
  • Feedback students receive from others – whether these represent experts, learners or other potential users such as teachers.


(ILO 1, 2, 3)


Additional guidance on the written assignment:

  • The assignment should document and reflect on the design process you would undertake for the design idea of the technology you have worked on in class. It should explain what the design process would look like and why those design processes are appropriate for your design idea.
  • It is not a report on the exact design process you did in class. It may draw from and reflect on the activities you did or things you learned, but it is not solely a descriptive report of what we have done so far, as what we do in class is only part of a what an actual design process would involve. You do not need to include every activity we explored in class, though you may include and adapt those that are appropriate to your design idea and process.
  • The focus of the assignment is on the design process, not on the technology itself. Therefore, this is not a 3,000 word paper that looks in great detail at the learning technology idea in your design. You will need to describe and explain the technology (ideally with a visual representation of it) but this will be only a small proportion of the overall assignment – the majority of the essay should focus on the process of design, and how that might inform any particular features of the technology.
  • The discussion of the design process and rationale behind why you would choose to design it in the way you describe should be supported by academic literature from relevant fields. These may include areas like design thinking and design processes, learning theory, multimedia instruction and cognitive theories, user-centred design, human-computer interaction, background to the area of learning, and the politics of design.


Suggested assignment structure:


The following information offers a suggested structure and approximate word count for each section. This is to be taken as a guide only. It can – and should – be adjusted to suit your own design process. You should come up with your own sub-headings to describe the content and argument of each sub-section of your essay.


The word counts below are provided to demonstrate that the emphasis of the assignment should be on discussing the design process rather than the actual technology you are designing.

Part 1: Introducing your idea (around 700-1000 words):
 – An explanation of and rationale for your initial idea, its users and the problem or need it addresses. Where did your initial idea come from?

– Brief indicative literature review related to the learning context the technology supports. What areas of existing academic research (such as education, gaming, technologies, etc) may be relevant to your design? This can help provide some rationale for the design idea – what gap does it fill? What problem does it address?
– A visual illustration of your design idea
– A ‘Learning Brief’ describing the learning objectives

Part 2: About your Design Process (around 2,000-2,300 words)
A map or flowchart to visually show the overall design process you would follow, as designed for the poster session in the last week of class (equivalent of ~ 200 words)

– A description of the design process you would undertake for developing this technology. This should be a critical and reflective discussion on how you would develop your initial idea into a technology-based educational tool and why you are approaching your design process in this way.  This might include discussion on some of the following areas that have been discussed and worked on in the unit:

  • Design thinking and overall design approach
  • Human/user-centred design and how/when different people or users might be involved
  • Market research
  • Literature related to learning and multimedia design for learning
  • Activities and stages of the design process – i.e., initial consultation, concept or user workshops, task analysis, co-design activities. Include discussion of how you will gather feedback about your idea and what will you do with this feedback to inform the development of your design.
  • Prototype development and testing, content development, usability testing
  • How you would evaluate the success of the technology and whether it has supported the learning objectives.


Remember! In addition to describing what choices you would make in a design process, also explainwhy you have made the decisions to design the technology in this wayand use other literature to support you in doing this. For example, if you opt to involve users in a co-design process from the outset, you might explain what co-design means, what the literature says about using co-design methods and their benefits, and why this approach is the right one for your design – all the while using literature on co-design to support the discussion.


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