Meet Stephen, an Instructional Designer

Stephen Abblitt is a Learning Designer at Keypath, and has recently shared a bit about his responsibilities and how learning design plays a critical role within the business.

What are your key responsibilities?

I work closely with academics and other subject matter experts to conceptualise, design, produce and deliver online courses across a range of disciplinary and educational contexts. On the one hand, the role of a learning designer focuses on ensuring the relationship between learning outcomes, assessment tasks and teaching activities is explicit, direct and aligned; and on the other, the role confronts the problems of online learning through the application of design thinking principles. Once a design is settled upon, we collaborate with academics over the ensuing months to develop some really rich and engaging learning materials and design some highly interactive, social and collaborative activities.

What kind of skills do you need for your role?

The role of a learning designer begins with people management, and the academics. To make the most of the design process, you must empathise with the challenging situations they often face in a contemporary university and try to understand the specificities of their discipline and signature pedagogies. Relationship building is crucial, as you work together from conception to completion for six months. This not only extends to course coordinators, academics and other teaching staff, but internal stakeholders such as multimedia producers, graphic designers, web developers and learning technologists, as well as the marketing, student enrolment and student retention teams. Above all, you need a broad and deep knowledge of current research and trends in online education and learning technologies; this helps to not only inform best-practice design, but also to help establish your own authority as an expert in adult and online education.

Why is your role important at Keypath?

My work is not only about course development; it’s also about building relationships with current and prospective partners, showcasing knowledge and expertise on the frontlines. Learning designers are almost evangelists for online education, but online education done well. We want to develop a reputation for designing and delivering high-quality innovative courses, informed by the wealth of data we have available to analyse and evaluate the effectiveness of the work we do with regards to issues such as student belonging, engagement, and retention. We want to give Keypath a reputation for designing the type of courses students love, the courses they will persist with and succeed in.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I love seeing our students succeed, particularly those from non-traditional backgrounds. But most of all, I love working with academics. I love seeing the transformation they go through after working with us. For many, this is a new and unfamiliar (often daunting)  mode of teaching—most have never taught an online course before. Our team put a lot of work into training and development, both formally and informally, and I think it shows in the way the academic mindset transforms; they open up to new ideas and innovative technologies to help improve the online learning experience. After all, the most crucial factor to the success of an online course remains a self-assured, actively engaged teacher.