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The 5 Ds: A Collaborative Model for Learning Design (Part 2)

The EvoLLLution | The 5 Ds: A Collaborative Model for Learning Design (Part 2)
Ultimately, by building strong partnerships across the institution and buttressing them with the 5 D’s framework, institutions can formalize the informal collaborative work that’s already happening and allow the rest of the institution to benefit.

This is the conclusion of a two-part series by Bonnie Anderson discussing the 5 D’s Framework to support collaboration. The 5 D’s are Discovery, Design, Development, Delivery and Debrief. Anderson introduced the concept and discussed the first two D’s in her first installment. In this piece, she outlines the remaining three D’s.


The development phase is where many learning designers (LDs) are typically used to piling more hats onto our already crowded heads. Prior to adopting the 5 D framework in the TLL, our LD’s would set off on their own to develop the experience with a variety of tools, including rapid development tools like Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate, multimedia presentation tools like Articulate Presenter and VoiceThread, learning platforms like Canvas and Blackboard, and/or other technologies. Now, while they may still develop some assets in those tools, our LDs have recognized that contributions from others can significantly enhance the work. For example:

Web Development:

  • Rather than becoming programmers, our LDs look to those with experience in web development who can build a series of efficient, screen-reader friendly, web-optimized templates for use on pages in a learning platform.

Media Development:

  • While low-fi video production via webcams and phones has its place in the development stage, we have found that partnering with a professional media team for the creation of high-quality video and animation has led to a richer user experience that positively impacts engagement and retention.

User Experience and Accessibility:

  • By partnering with our institution’s experts in accessibility (University Disability Services, Universal Design for Learning, and others) and usability (User Experience Specialists and the Library’s User Experience Lab), our learning experiences now reflect best practices in these areas.

The LD identifies and guides all contributors through the development process with an eye toward integrating these otherwise disparate contributions into a coherent whole in alignment with the vision of the course team. Once the learning experience is developed and tested, the team collectively braces itself for the big event: Launch!


Through most of my career in LD roles in various contexts (corporate, medical and academic), the delivery (or “implementation”) phase is often where we check out. The learning experience is thus in the hands of the platform (in asynchronous or self-paced online learning) and/or the facilitation team (in synchronous or facilitated learning), and often does not involve the LD until and unless some technical issue is encountered. In my experience, this can underutilize and even demotivate the LD.

Rather than being primarily technology support specialists in this phase, LDs for online learning experiences are uniquely positioned to assist the delivery team with addressing teaching and learning challenges that may be encountered over the life of the course. To this end, the TLL instituted the “Learning Loop” concept, a series of meetings in which the entire course team meets at stated intervals (often weekly) during the first-run of a new learning experience. In these meetings, we review feedback from learners and facilitators, identify opportunities to make mid-stream improvements and/or iterative changes the next time the course is offered, and resolve new challenges around the facilitation model, technologies, or course structure.

The Learning Loop model has proven to be an invaluable step in the process of creating and launching learning experiences because it keeps the entire team in touch with the course as it is being experienced by our learners. It has also helped to set healthy precedents around continuous course improvement and ongoing engagement between LDs and teaching teams.


Once the learning experience has been planned, created and offered to real learners, it is time to debrief by gathering with the team and other stakeholders to answer questions such as:

The Experience:

  • What kind of feedback did learners and facilitators provide for this experience?
  • What most supported and most hindered their learning?
  • What aspects of the experience were particularly effective?

The Outcomes:

  • Did the learners demonstrate the knowledge and skills we set out to provide?
  • How many completed the course and how many did not?
  • What contributed to these decisions?

The Impact:

  • Did learners indicate that the learning was relevant and applicable?
  • Can they demonstrate or explain ways in which what they have learned has impacted their practice?

The Project:

  • How did it go?
  • What worked well?
  • What could have gone better?
  • What should we do the same and differently in future, similar projects?
  • Did we have the right people involved, in the right ways, at the right times?

These questions are answered through analysis of quantitative and qualitative data collected throughout the learning experience as well as interviews and/or focus groups with various contributors. This is an extension of ADDIE’s Evaluation phase, which tends to focus primarily on the learner evaluations in terms of satisfaction, outcomes, results and impact, commonly referenced as Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation.[1]

A thorough debrief with all relevant parties, including learner feedback, can help to uncover opportunities for continuous improvement for this project and, often, the rest of the portfolio as well.


Taken together, the 5 Ds encompass a process of collaborative learning design in which dedicated LDs both drive and contribute to a cross-functional team of widely varying expertise. This framework provides a structure for project planning and management that promotes efficiencies. Timelines and milestones are mapped to each of the 5 D phases, working out from the anticipated Launch Date for the experience. By positioning the LD as the bridge connecting various stakeholders throughout the entire process, leveraging the expertise of various professionals, cultivating a culture of reflection and communication through the Learning Loops and the Debrief stages, each team member is free to make their strongest contributions in the most effective ways.

Encouraging LDs to build close partnerships with faculty tends to result in two additional benefits. First, working with a team to develop an online learning experience often enhances faculty’s approach to planning and teaching in the traditional classroom. Second, faculty and other content experts become aware of their blind spots and appreciate the ability to focus on their own areas of expertise. As such successes are verbalized and captured, word-of-mouth across the campus helps to slowly move the needle around faculty openness to others contributing to their courses.

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[1] Kirkpatrick, Donald L. Evaluating Training Programs. Tata McGraw-Hill Education, 1975.

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