Six young people, of different races and genders, sit around a table covered in open textbooks, notebooks, headphones, and laptops. Some of them are holding pens. All of them are laughing or smiling. Behind them is a huge bookshelf full of books.

Meet the RDEISE Learning Design Team

For the last few months, we’ve been highlighting different areas of the Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Science Education project (RDEISE). On the blog, we have covered the project's inception, introduced our graduate fellows as well as the steering committee, and more. This month, we go behind the scenes of the RDEISE project. Three of our learning designers—Aayshah Jaffer, Kashief Gamieldien, and Robert Henning—give us an exclusive look into the learning design process. We also discuss how deeply DEI is embedded in the project, and get some first-hand tips for anyone interested in a career in learning design.  

Q: How do you define learning design?

Robert Henning: I define learning design as the thread that weaves together the entire learning process, from inception to completion. This involves wearing various hats, as curriculum designers, script writers, editors, and pedagogical experts, all while keeping the end users—learners and educators—in mind.

A portrait of Robert Henning, a white man, smiling against a white wall. He has wavy brown hair and a brown beard, and is wearing a blue button-down shirt. A block quote reads: “I have had a passion for teaching and learning for as far back as I can remember, which eventually led me to studying sport science as I wanted to work in the sports coaching industry. I was lucky in that I found a job working as a lecturer, which opened up a whole new world of education. I have worked with learning designers who have no experience in learning design, but have the skills necessary to do the job.”

Kashief Gamieldien: My definition of learning design draws parallels with architecture. As a building should speak to its context and usage, the learning designer looks to the context shaping the learner’s experience to find the best fit.

A portrait of Kashief Gamieldien, a mixed-race man, smiling against a white wall. He’s got short black and gray hair and a short black and gray beard, and is wearing a white button-down shirt. A block quote reads: “A graduate of English studies, I have worked in e-learning for about six years as an instructional writer and now learning designer. I was drawn to the field of learning design, simply because I enjoy working with the interplay between language and visual communication.”

Aayshah Jaffer: To me, learning design is the invisible part of any learning experience. At its crux, our job is to map out the learning journey from beginning to end. When it’s designed well, the learning journey is a natural progression - at its end, the learner should be able to achieve the outcomes set out by an educator or facilitator. In my opinion, one of the most important considerations in learning design is how to keep the learner engaged and interested. This means looking at content and deciding what the best format for presenting it would be.

A portrait of Aayshah Jaffer, a mixed-race woman, smiling against a white wall. She’s wearing a green and white floral hijab and red lipstick. A block quote reads: “I got into learning design by accident. After obtaining a B.A. in English and Linguistics, I struggled to figure out what I wanted to do. My sister heard about learning design through a friend, and encouraged me to look into it as a possible career option. I fell in love with it pretty quickly.”

Q: Can you give a brief overview of your role in the RDEISE project?

Kashief Gamieldien: My role is assessing content developed by the RDEISE graduate fellows to turn it into bite-sized learning experiences: text, videos, infographics, and animations. This involves working with writers, editors, and subject matter experts to communicate key ideas in antiracist theory and scholarship in an accessible and easily understandable way. I also work with graphic and motion designers to ensure the best visual treatment for concepts.

Q: How would you describe the role learning design plays in the RDEISE project?

Aayshah Jaffer: The way I see it, a learning designer’s top priority is to ensure the learner has everything they need to meet learning objectives. At the moment, this means looking at content and proposing the type of assets that best suit it. The team also has a hand in every stage of asset development, to ensure that the end product provides a full learning journey for each learner.

Robert Henning: We focus on ensuring that the learning experience is one that not only meets the criteria but also provides effective learning of the topic. This is done through working the initial content into a storyboard document, creating effective learning experiences through tools such as images, infographics, and other visuals that bring the content to life.

Q: How central is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) to the learning design process in this project?

Kashief Gamieldien: DEI is embedded in the RDEISE project team and learning design process. We have assembled a team of diverse people who value the purpose and potential impact of the RDEISE project. More broadly, the RDEISE graduate fellows and faculty steering committee provide critical guidance and oversight on a periodic basis. This ensures that project processes are geared toward not only achieving a project of integrity, but that the operational framework that delivers the project is also based on integrity.    

Aayshah Jaffer: I’d say it plays a pretty central role…we are constantly learning from one another’s perspectives. We all believe in the messaging behind this project, especially as South Africans living in the aftermath of apartheid.

Q: What about the RDEISE project drew you in or inspires you?

Aayshah Jaffer: The idea that we would be facilitating a new perspective on the issues of racism as a public health crisis, and concentrating on inclusive teaching practices interested me. Having the opportunity to read first-hand narratives in the form of personal stories from the graduate fellows has been eye-opening. It’s helped me think about how to design educational content in a more inclusive way.

Q: What advice would you give to people who have an interest in learning design?

Robert Henning: If you would like to begin your journey in learning design, my advice would be to learn as much as possible about the educational and curriculum design approach. Read books, attend talks and seminars, take short courses, and try your hand at developing your own small courses and curricula. You don’t necessarily need to know how to build a course online, but rather the philosophical and pedagogical approach in educational design.

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Written by
LabXchange RDEISE team

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