How would you go about becoming an expert at designing online learning?

I read a tweet this morning that asked; if you could be in the 1% of experts for any skill, what would that be? I have been building my skills in the design of online learning for several years, so it got me thinking about what expertise looks like in my field. I wrote the following question at the top of a page and started to make a list. 

How would you go about becoming an expert at designing online learning? 

Here are my steps to developing expertise in the design of online and blended learning courses. If you have questions or what to add to the list, message me on Twitter.

  1. Follow a documented set of learning and design principles
  2. Develop a model for estimating effort and costs
  3. Follow a repeatable development process
  4. Know the fundamentals of project management and follow them religiously
  5. Treat the course creator like the hero of the story, support them and collaborate.
  6. Have a Quality Assurance process linked to the design principles
  7. Set clear expectations for students, create metrics to monitor against these, and have interventions in place when they are not met.
  8. Collect and analyse lots of data and user feedback
  9. Iterate, iterate, iterate
  10. Frequently update your learning and design principles, costing model, and development process

Notes: Firstly, I have explicitly focused on the design of courses and separated this from the very different development and delivery skills. Secondly, I have taken some liberties by putting all the learning and design principles into a single step. These two areas are vast and cover everything from accessibility and user experience to psychology and learning and teaching models. Thirdly, within the third step of following the development process, I currently prefer to use the rapid prototyping model that follows the Design thinking steps, including the creation of student personas, and UCL’s ABC workshop for mapping out the course. Finally, this is the first attempt at a list, and I might wake up tomorrow and realise I have missed a whole section of the field and need to update this list. If you are in the area already or are interested in developing your expertise, then I hope this list is useful.

If you have questions or want to add to the list, message me on Twitter. I would love to see other peoples lists for building expertise in the design of online courses too.

Point A to Point B

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.


Much of the work we do in educational technology helps people understand where they are, where they want to be, and then support them to achieve it. In the book Intervention, Dan John‘s process working with athletes has many parallels with our work with academics.

Some teams, departments, or universities know precisely where they want to be-Point B, but they are not clear on where they are now, Point A. In this situation, our job is to identify their current position, then create a plan to reach their goal. Others know exactly where they are but need help to see a realistic goal, requiring ideas, standards, and progressions. A third more common group is unrealistic about their Point A and/or Point B and needs help to identify both before making a plan and starting work. We need to know both point A and point B to draw the line between them.

There are things that everyone we work with needs; ideas of innovative practice to improving student experience, more straightforward and better-integrated technology, comprehensive training and support, and a clear development process. We also need effective project management and a schedule that takes into account the academic calendar. But some tools can help assess where a team is on their journey and the next step in their progression, such as the Quality Matters Standards, the OLC’s Quality Scorecard, and the SAMR learning model


  • If people know the goal, assess where they are and connect the dots.
  • If people know where they are now, but either want an unrealistic goal or do not know what they want, show them the next step and connect them.
  • With everyone, always focus on the process and the keys to success. 

If you are currently working on your service offer, spend some time on a set of questions and a collection of principles to find Point A, Point B, and the most direct route. A systematic approach to educational developments will help you find the straight line.