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The Learning Designer: Architect, Trainer and Project Manager

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Creating online training brings its share of new professions. The Educational Engineer, internationally referred to as the Learning Designer, is one of them. Joanna Szuda works in this role with EDHEC Online. She invites us into her daily life as she tells us more about this new profession that combines education, design, project management and even architecture!

Devenir ingénieur pédagogique - EDHEC Online

What is the job of Learning Designer?

Hello Joanna, what does the job of Learning Designer consist of?

It is a relatively new profession, which combines teaching and project management and exists mainly for distance learning.

The role of the Learning Designer is to create engaging and quality teaching material for students to follow. In order to do this, we work in partnership with teachers, experts who pass on their knowledge and a whole larger team of people who specialise in video shooting, IT development and graphics, among others.

  • We help authors to structure the contents of a specific training course in order to make their knowledge intelligible, educational and even fun, as well as working with the team to build and test the modules on the platform that they will be followed on.
  • We focus on practical elements at EDHEC, using plausible examples that can be found in the world of work.

The courses must also be up to date and reflect the most recent innovations. The second characteristic specific to the profession of Learning Designer is that you can watch, rewatch and rewind everything online. It is for this reason that everything has to be carefully constructed and we pay great attention to detail in these courses.

You said that this profession is relatively recent. Can you tell me roughly when it came about?

The profession of teaching has existed forever, but its Learning Designer counterpart is more recent. Nevertheless, we can find traces of it from as early as 1954. In the last fifteen years, however, the profession has grown a lot with the explosion of online studying. It currently has representatives in many countries around the world, especially in the English-speaking world, France, Germany and Japan, which explains why we prefer the English term even though a French translation exists.

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What are the specific educational features of EDHEC Online?

We use the same teaching methods as IVEY in Canada and Imperial College in Great Britain. We are part of the FOME Group, an alliance of prestigious universities and schools at the cutting edge of research.

We find common points in the cornerstones of the teaching methods at these institutions, such as quality control, the choice of authors and technological and educational innovation. For example, we pay great attention to storytelling by making study scenarios concrete and fun.

To give you an example, one activity we propose is making investment decisions for a pharmaceutical company in Brazil based on very precise data. The students make a recommendation when we have gone through all the resources. Then, new elements are unlocked and we ask them if they stand by their decision or if they prefer to dig further. This practical scenario allows them to use their data analysis, synthesis and reasoning skills in a specific situation from the professional world in a playful, pragmatic and, above all, interactive scenario!

How do you go about making learning fun and maintaining student engagement?

We achieve this through continuous innovation and monitoring educational innovation. YouTube has made people less attentive and more demanding, so now you have to engage them in the first few seconds. We also mix the formats and make the scenarios as interesting as possible because we need to always surprise people!

Having to adapt to different audiences is another difficult aspect, as we work with students who are just starting education, students in their thirties who are retraining and leaders in their forties or with even more experience. We convey our messages with humour and rely on gamification for the youngest students. For people who are retraining, the courses need to be very practical, professionalising and allow for knowledge to be applied to profession. The best feedback is when a graduate tells us that they have been able to put their skills to good use in their professional life!

Finally, we rely on adaptive learning so that everyone can advance at their own pace. If a person finishes early, then they can deepen their knowledge, whereas if someone is struggling, an academic mentor will support them.

Listening to you, it’s clear that you love your job! What do you like the most?

Indeed. It’s wonderful because we learn every day. We never work on the same content or with the same experts twice and we exchange with people who open our horizons. It’s also very creative. We tell stories and imagine how we could make an activity attractive, fun and original. And, in the end, we see what we’ve brought to life.

If I had to compare my profession to others, I would say it is very similar to the profession of architecture. Architects must also create something (the invention, design and creation side), but it must be achievable, logical and perfectly constructed. I go between being a journalist, an architect, an IT project manager and a co-director on a daily basis. I really enjoy this varied mix of tasks and skills.

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