Designing Next-Gen Digital Learning Environments

Workshop Session 2

Brief Abstract

How might we engage students, faculty, and administrators to design next-gen digital learning environments? Too often, digital learning tools are selected based on known tools rather than what is actually needed to facilitate learning. In seeking to meet the widest range of needs, existing tools clutter the learning environment and obscure what is essential for students and faculty. In this workshop, participants will engage in a design thinking process to imagine and prototype next-generation digital learning environments. Through this process, participants will identify how existing and emerging technologies might remain relevant in today’s learning landscape.


Mike Goudzwaard is a Learning Designer for in-person and online courses at Dartmouth College and a mentor and supervisor in the college’s Learning Assistant program. He works with faculty to empower student learning through community engagement, emerging instructional pedagogy, and educational technology. Mike is the Lead Designer and Developer for Dartmouth's digital learning initiatives. He leads the Learning Design group of technologists, faculty developers, and pedagogy experts who work to align space and technical resources for learning at Dartmouth. Mike writes at

Additional Authors

Adam Finkelstein is currently an Educational Developer at Teaching and Learning Services at McGill University where he develops educational university-wide initiatives to improve teaching and learning. In his tenure at McGill, he has managed a team of instructional designers and multimedia programmers. He has developed many different types of award winning technology-enhanced teaching and learning projects for McGill including multimedia CD-ROMs, learning objects, simulations, and other on-line environments - including multiple previous implementations of McGill's learning management systems. His area of research interest includes the interrelationship of teaching and learning in physical (classroom, teaching and simulation labs) and virtual (online learning) environments. He has also been very much involved in the implementation of technology in education and instructional/learning design for on-line and face-to-face learning. Over the last few years he has been focused on designing innovative physical and virtual learning spaces. He is currently the Chair of two groups responsible for the selection, design and renovation of classrooms and teaching labs at McGill, including numerous new Active Learning Classrooms and Labs. He is also Team Lead for the design and delivery of McGill's first four Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Extended Abstract

One of the challenges with existing learning management systems (LMS) is that they are designed to support everything, from content organization to discussions, assessments, lecture capture and synchronous learning. This results in an overbuilt system with too many features that most teachers and students never use. 

The LMS offers the promise of more efficient teaching and better learning, however the edtech marketplace rarely delivers custom or flexible solutions that address both evolving or even fundamental programmatic needs. The results are tools and platforms that are overbuilt and prescriptive about how learning should happen. Next generation digital learning environments will need to focus on three characteristics to remain relevant: agility, simplicity, and interoperability.

In this workshop, participants will work in small groups to identify a digital learning challenge relevant to their own contexts and use the design thinking process to 1) empathize, 2) define, 3) ideate, 4) prototype, and 5) test in the development of next generation digital learning tools and environments. Facilitators will train participants in design thinking, model rapid-prototyping, and provide coaching and feedback to participants. 

Finally, this session will explore strategies to bring the design thinking process back to campuses and support the development and adoption of digital learning environments.

In this session, participants will:

  1. Articulate the challenges and limitations of existing digital learning tools and platforms.

  2. Identify a digital learning challenge that could be addressed with effective, appropriate tools and platforms.

  3. Utilize the design thinking process to imagine and prototype next generation digital learning tools and platforms.