What does the ‘co’ in co-design mean to you? Is it about collaboration, combining expertise, and inviting multiple perspectives into the design of a course or program? Is the ‘co’ about the communication, cooperation and compromise needed to reach a satisfactory solution? Or perhaps it’s about connection and community, as much about the process of working together as it is about the outcome? Why does co-design matter at all? 

How can we solve complex problems? 

Here’s another ‘co’: complexity. New education models, evolving learner needs, shifting technologies, emerging industries and imagining jobs that don’t yet exist all present challenges that can’t be solved by a lone designer or single perspective. 

Learning designers draw on a broad range of skills throughout the design process, from empathy and listening to understand learners and stakeholders, to communication and visualisation skills to check progress and share plans. These skills and many more support the ability to design with, and not just for other people.  

How can we learn from public policy and industry? 

Co-design has been used to create solutions for some of the most challenging problems we face in society. Government and public policy, community, healthcare and human services have all made use of the principles, processes and practical tools co-design can bring, creating a legacy of research and toolkits to learn from and apply.

In education, we see examples in initiatives involving students as partners, co-design applied in learning transformation initiatives with staff and students, and collaborations involving teachers, industry experts, students, technical experts, media experts and learning designers to create new courses and programs

How can we apply co-design in our work? 

Whether you’re a learning designer, education specialist or work across a few different aspects of learning, there are heaps of ways to think about co-design in your work. Start by considering who you work with, what you find challenging and what works well in co-design, in your experience. We’d love you to add your answers to those three questions in this quick Mentimeter poll – you can also see responses from others when you’ve submitted yours.

You could also have a think about some of the following questions:

What are you designing? 

It might be a new course or a re-design of an old one, or working with a new model, format or micro-credential. Perhaps you’re designing something less ‘tangible’ like a new system or process? What is it about your project that will benefit from the input of others? 

Who are you designing with? 

Typical examples might be Subject Matter Experts (inside or outside the institution), academics, technology experts, your own team members, and students. Each collaborator brings their own version of expertise, which may need careful scaffolding to bring the best out of the collaboration. What do they know that you don’t? How can you create the right conditions for co-designing with them? 

Why are you designing? 

This question can be lost, or assumptions made in the frenzy of project deadlines and productivity. Are you designing for better student experience, for better academic outcomes, or perhaps a different type of outcome? How can you keep the ‘why’ front and centre as a guiding principle and motivation when co-design gets messy? 

Join the Learning Design Meetup

We’ll be looking at these aspects of co-design and more in our upcoming Learning Design Meetup on Tuesday, 23 November. If you would like to join the Meetup, please contact Mais Fatayer for more information. To be part of ongoing discussions on all things Learning Design, please join the conversation in the UTS Learning Design Meetup Teams channel.   

Further reading 

Unpacking co-design: a short, practical article by The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI)  

The Promise of Co-Design for public policy: applications and challenges in co-design

Co-Design for Student Success: a handbook on co-designing with students from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, authored by Dr Mollie Dollinger and Dr Belinda D’Angelo  

Co-Design Research Group: a University of Sydney Business School Blog onBusiness Education, Research and Teaching

Feature image by UX Indonesia

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