Co-authored by Shaun Bell, Soli Le-Masurier and Angela Yang.

Finding the balance between clever design and sustainable subjects can be a challenge when working with technology-enabled learning. What do you do when your learning design solution could become a bigger problem than the original issue you set out to resolve? When presented an opportunity to revisit your original approach, should you start to ‘undesign‘ or redesign your approach? Or should you pause, take a breath, and get a fresh perspective? 

In this post, we’ll explore how one of our Graduate Certificate in Learning Design intern designers, Angela Yang, worked with Prof Franziska Trede and Dr Soli Le-Masurier to evolve the student learning experience in the UTS postgraduate subject ‘Practicing inclusion’. Angela brought new vision to the team by using data driven processes to unpack our problem and design a solution, enabling a more manageable and meaningful learning experience for facilitators, students, and designers. 


The UTS Graduate Certificate in Learning Design features an invaluable opportunity for learners to engage in authentic work integrated learning, and this includes with our own expert learning design team. In 2023 Angela Yang spent 6 weeks with PGLD gaining real experience working with subject matter experts and digital learning technologies. 

Angela was presented with the question of – how do we reduce the volume of activities across a subject that is being delivered simultaneously to two cohorts, across two separate instances of the Canvas LMS? And how could we do so without further fragmenting these student groups or creating additional work for the teaching team?

The subject made use of Padlet, which was selected because it could be seamlessly embedded in a Canvas page. This meant that a single Padlet discussion board could be simultaneously used across multiple Canvas course sites, uniting groups of students in different versions (or even sessions) of a subject in ways that Canvas Discussion or Collaboration wouldn’t allow. This was was especially helpful for students in the microcredential version of the subject (usually much fewer than in the corresponding UTS staff cohort) and both groups benefit from working with each other.  

The initial approach involved embedding Padlets into the subject site. This approach was then refined based on student feedback that the number and placement of Padlets was ‘overwhelming’, and to encourage greater rates of participation. Not being wholly integrated into the UTS digital learning ecosystem, Padlets also require manual ‘refresh’ or resetting each session to remove previous responses. 

a screenshot of padlet responses to a question about what work students do. Most of the responses and names are blurred out for anonymity.

Discovery, analysis and expectations

Angela took up the challenge of trying to reduce the volume of activities, while still retaining the original intent of the design: enabling a split group of students working across two Canvas sites the opportunity to collaboratively engage in select activities with a larger group of learners.   

This required a holistic review of the subject sites and the creation of a database, outlining the current format (or technology) of each activity, its intended purpose, as well as any detail related to the role of the activity in the broader learning sequences. Angela drew on the PGLD Quality Framework to inform her approach. 

an excel spreadsheet showing the review process, with information about purpose and improvement suggestions added for each padlet activity

With a complete record, we could undertake further analysis on the volume of student activity and make targeted recommendations for streamlining and improving these activities. Angela drew inspiration from the SAMR model, which provides a framework for understanding the application of technology for enhancement of learning. This model is also useful for understanding the requirements for a move from technology as direct substitute, to technology for redefining learning. The process enables the creation of new tasks or ways of working that were previously inconceivable. Find out more about SAMR from Ruben Puentedura’s ‘SAMR: moving from enhancement to transformation’ (opens PDF file).


This review was revealing. Over half of the activities had little-to-no student response or interaction, and while many Padlets were well designed and provided excellent learning moments for application of skills and knowledge, other instances could easily be reworked as text-based reflection prompts and serve the same purpose. At the same time, while some activities using Padlet were found to have low engagement, their importance in the learning sequence meant that further instruction or additional facilitator engagement were needed to ensure the activity properly benefitted learners in the future. The result saw the number of Padlet reflection prompts halved. The revised approach still makes use of the same digital solution, but with a fresh perspective the subject sites going forward now feature a more limited and targeted use of Padlet, benefitting both learners and facilitators. 

While it is a rare and invaluable opportunity to have a dedicated professional learner engage in a collaborative review of a subject site, this experience is a testament to the value of an integrative and iterative learning design approach. Angela’s experience shows the value of an approach that makes full use of a team of dedicated subject matter experts, multidisciplinary learning designers, and student partnership, to continuously review and improve our offerings.

Special thanks to Professor Franziska Trede for her collaboration on this project.

Join the discussion