Public sector spending on education is projected to be £99 billion this year. ESRC-funded researchers have developed the Learning Designer, a web-based tool which has helped thousands of teaching professionals to design and improve teaching activities.


  • Through being included in primary and secondary PGCE training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses the Learning Designer has reached thousands of practising designers, technologists, teachers, staff developers and librarians.
  • Use of the Learning Designer tool has been steadily rising. There were 3,700 unique visits to the web application per month in the latter half of 2014, which rose to 10,000 unique visits per month in mid 2015. The website logs users from 40 countries over a typical 4-day period.
  • The web app is being used in several universities as part of a CPD course, including the EU Schoolnet, a network of 31 European ministries of education. It's being used to train computer science graduates taking an MSc in Educational Technology, funded by the Greek Ministry of Education.
  • The research has also been used in the University of Macerata (Italy) and the University of Hong Kong in developing their courses for teachers.
  • The Learning Designer is currently being trialled in training programmes and professional development courses at the School of Pedagogical and Technological Education-ASPETE, Greece, and Trinity College, Hartford in the US. It is also used in staff development at University College London.
  • The researchers are currently in discussion with Google Education, the CoLearnr platform and the social network Learnium about how the app could be further developed as a pedagogical design tool for teachers.

About the research

In 2008 researchers from six English universities and colleges, led by Professor Diana Laurillard from the UCL Institute of Education and funded through the ESRC/EPSRC Technology Enhanced Learning research programme, set out to design a computer software program that could help teachers refine and reflect on their teaching practice. They developed the 'Learning Designer' - a computer-based design tool that can be used by teachers to design, modify and share lesson plans. The tool was originally only stand-alone, but with further ESRC funding, the Building Community Knowledge project developed it as an online tool for sharing learning designs.

The Learning Designer improves teaching by encouraging teachers use ideas from other teachers, to reflect more on their practice by showing how the student's time is spent on different types of learning, test learning outcomes, and share successful lesson plans and activities across different subject areas. For example, the software invites teachers to reflect on the likely impact of particular lesson plans on students' learning outcomes. It is also able to analyse and display how the student's time is spent on different types of learning.

The Learning Designer supports the effective use of technology in teaching by asking the teacher to consider what kind of learning is required for an activity, and then decide on the most appropriate tool to use; for example, wikis or shared documents to enable collaboration, or web forums to stimulate discussion – leading to more effective and immersive teaching. The library of existing designs can be searched for specific tools, or in relation to specific types of learning approach.

The overall aim of the research is to create a national repository of teaching ideas and lesson plans for all education sectors, which all teachers could search through for examples of what works in class or online. The database would allow teachers to pick the right mix of learning activities for a particular set of students.