Better learning through facilitation & instructional design

Date: 2020
Team: 4 people incl. me as Design Sprint facilitator

Project Type:

Key Activities:


A course had been recently converted from physical to fully digital at short notice.

Our team of young professionals aimed to provide a more pleasant experience for the students as well as the staff.

We would do so by employing the right tools and helpful routines.


Taking the course ourselves, keeping an open line of communication to other participants, after which we organized a one week Design Sprint.

This led to a better understanding of the pain points, followed by ideation, and selection based on effort vs reward.

We ran experiments, improving the experience in the present and making future recommendations supported by evidence.

Outcome + Impact

Our team’s actions led to more peer-learning, stronger professional relationships and increased learning outcomes.

Some learners benefited from the changes, and were very vocal about it!

We presented our understanding of the problem to the organizers, as well as what was proven to work. Made recommendations for future versions of the course.

Key Achievements:

Restoring human connection — remotely

Using Whereby to create virtual conferencing rooms without friction

Transforming strangers into colleagues through random ice-breakers

Graphic adapted from Whereby

Assignment filled in by 3 people

Facilitation as a tool for Learning among peers

Sessions in which the deliverable is the learning itself

Fill in as one team; discuss and compare with other teams; then re-answer

Copywriting, Graphic Design & Active learning*

*learning that results in an ability of Doing, not just Knowing

Clear assignments and timely feedback thanks to a Learning Management System

‘difficult’ where it should be difficult, and ‘clear’ everywhere else

More about the Process

Click to read the Design Brief

The learning programme in question was organized by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. This course was aimed at educating and enabling a young generation of Circular Economy Pioneers.

The first online version of the course consisted of a Webinar series through Zoom + assignments with discussions on Slack. It was the organizer’s first attempt at a fully digital learning programme, therefore some adjustments were required in order to ensure a more pleasant experience for the students and staff.

The objective we defined for ourselves was: designing and implementing changes in order to streamline the experience of learners (out of the 400 participants, less than 100 were active and engaged) as well as supporting staff (5 staff members working overtime).

This case study focuses on my contributions as part of a team of 4 young professionals.

Our approach, in short:

  • Experiencing the online course ourselves, observing and listening to many stakeholders
  • Organizing a 5 day Design Sprint – resulted in a backlog of tasks which would have a tangible and immediate return for the participants
  • Acting through key levers in order to achieve better learning outcomes and stronger collaboration between members.
  • The project concluded with presenting actual work products, observations about how these interventions worked, plus suggestions for a better future version.

The rest of this article expands on the 6 key things that we changed in order to create a better learning experience. For a summary, jump back to the top of the page.

Opening the door for informal discussions and peer-learning

using Whereby to create virtual rooms without bureaucracy

These rooms can be left open, so that anyone with a link can join. By not requiring approval from an administrator – lowering friction – members can join early or leave late – making time for informal social interaction.

They would enable enable breakout sessions and integrate well with visual collaboration tools like Miro or Mural (see next chapter).

Adapted from

Making new friends by scheduling Random Coffees

Breaking the ice, encouraging serendipity and keeping the enthusiasm flowing between participants

Members of the slack community were invited to call someone at random every week. This initiative was organized by a member of our team and it worked really well !

– Thank you to Minyoung for coming up with the idea and implementing it.

Facilitating collaboration in a digital workspace

communicating visually, interactively and remotely through Miro

The attached template was designed to support and encourage discussion in a team of 3 people. The form leaves space for questions left unanswered within the team – which can be brought up with other teams by sharing board links on Slack. In turn, enabling peer-learning and critical thinking.

๐ŸŽ“ If you are an instructor, see these great Miro templates for education.

Besides facilitating learning for other student teams, Miro played a crucial in aligning our own team when performing the Design Sprint itself.

Some team members exposed to Mural and Miro for the first time have continued using it confidently in future projects.

Field Guide for Distributed teams

Another resource that helped our team adapt to the remote way was this field guide which covers:

Cultivating a culture of โ€œwe are in this togetherโ€ โ›ต

Being clear and explicit about our expectations and values ๐Ÿ’ง

Reality-checking our key assumptions ๐Ÿ•ต๏ธโ€โ™‚๏ธ
with open ended questions and active listening

Realizing that we are not the only ones who struggle ๐Ÿ˜” with
< insert challenge here >

Giving each other the benefit of the doubt ๐Ÿ‘ :
โ€œWhat are possible explanations which donโ€™t make anyone look bad ?โ€

Building in feedback mechanisms and consistent communication ๐Ÿค™ channels to catch disagreements early before they get out of hand

๐Ÿ”— For more on the topic, see my article Design applied to the Employee Experience.

Learner-centered Experience Design

through the principles of Active Learning, Interaction & Graphic Design

As an example of how this was achieved, please see below an assignment re-designed for increased clarity. It was accomplished by:

  • looking at things “from outside -> in” with a fresh perspective;
  • making use of a beginner’s (not expert’s) frame of mind;
  • following the principles of Graphic Design, Interaction Design and UX Writing.

You are invited to compare the clarity of the text: before (left) and after (right)

Re-designed assignment, increased clarity (Click for full image)

Investigating the relevance of a Learning Management System

Microsoft Teams for Education & Open edXยฎ Platform

The objective of a learning management system (LMS) is to integrate the  tools used for learning, collaborating, submitting assignments into one platform – as a result, offering a more seamless journey.

Routine tasks like homework submission, material access, email reminders, and quiz feedback is automated. This way, Learners know what is expected of them. Instructors and Staff can stay focused on where they add value the most: personalized coaching, support and feedback – and not be distracted by repetitive administrative tasks.

Learner view
Active learning is encouraged by offering knowledge in small chunks that can be more easily understood. It provides encouraging, timely and personalized feedback on assignments.

Instructor View
A good LMS offers dashboards with insights that enable Staff to provide a truly personalized experience for the learners. For instance, by seeing which segments of videos are watched again and again, Instructors can decide if these difficulties are intentional or not. In addition, by seeing how an individual performs in real-time, small course corrections can improve learning when it matters most.

Although the act of re-orchestrating the learning experience around an LMS is time consuming, it pays off in two ways:

  • Active Learning: the act of re-organizing the material offers a chance to make the learning goals, content, medium and target audience even sharper. By designing around the principles of active learning, stronger learning outcomes can be achieved.
  • Scalability: The course can now be followed by more people, while the cost of organizing it stays mostly fixed. Therefore, achieving positive change in even more people’s lives.

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Get in touch ๐Ÿ“ž

If you would like to send some feedback or discuss what we could achieve together, please don’t hesitate to send me a free message on LinkedIn.